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Professor Lisa Belyea, BSc Hons (Carleton), MSc (Waterloo), PhD (London)

Professor of Biogeosciences

email: l.belyea@qmul.ac.uk
Tel: 020 7882 2781
Location: Geography Building, Room 214

Profile

Lisa Belyea

I am fascinated by how biological and physical processes interact at the Earth surface. My cross-disciplinary interests stem from a somewhat roving educational background: BSc in Biology and Geography (Carleton University, Canada), MSc in Earth Science (Waterloo University, Canada) and PhD in Ecology (University of London, UK).

My research interests focus on biogeochemical cycling and spatiotemporal dynamics, in both cases with empirical work concentrated mainly (but not exclusively) on peatlands. My research seeks to answer some key questions:

  • How do internal processes and external drivers such as climate change interact to control ecosystem dynamics at multiple spatial and temporal scales?
  • What determines ecosystem resilience, and are there thresholds for rapid change in ecosystem structure and function?
  • What are the key controls on carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emissions in peatland systems?

Key publications

  • Baird, A.J., Morris, P.J., and Belyea, L.R. 2012. The DigiBog peatland development model 1: Rationale, conceptual model, and hydrological basis. Ecohydrology 5: 242–255. DOI 10.1002/eco.230
  • Morris, P.J., Belyea, L.R., and Baird, A.J. 2011. Ecohydrological feedbacks in peatland development: a theoretical modelling study. Journal of Ecology 99: 1190–1201. DOI 10.1111/j.1365-2745.2011.01842.x
  • Eppinga, M.B., Rietkerk, M., Belyea, L.R., Nilsson, M.B., De Ruiter, P.C., and Wassen, M.J. 2010. Resource contrast in patterned peatlands increases along a climatic gradient. Ecology 91: 2344–2355. DOI 10.1890/09-1313.1
  • Cutler, N.A., Belyea, L.R., and Dugmore, A.J. 2008. The spatiotemporal dynamics of a primary succession. Journal of Ecology 96: 231–246. DOI 10.1111/j.1365-2745.2007.01344.x
  • Belyea, L.R. and Baird, A.J. 2006. Beyond “the limits to peat bog growth”: cross-scale feedback in peatland development. Ecological Monographs 76: 299–322. DOI 10.1890/0012-9615(2006)076[0299:BTLTPB]2.0.CO;2
  • Belyea, L.R. and Malmer, N. 2004. Carbon sequestration in peatland: patterns and mechanisms of response to climate change. Global Change Biology 10: 1043–1052. DOI 10.1111/j.1529-8817.2003.00783.x
  • Belyea, L.R. and Clymo, R.S. 2001. Feedback control of the rate of peat formation.  Proceedings of the Royal Society of London: Biological Sciences 268: 1315–1321. DOI 10.1098/rspb.2001.1665
  • Belyea, L.R., and Lancaster, J. 1999. Assembly rules within a contingent ecology. Oikos 86: 402–416.
  • Lancaster, J., and Belyea, L.R. 1997. Nested hierarchies and scale-dependence of flow refugium use.  Journal of the North American Benthological Society 16: 221–238.
  • Belyea, L.R. 1996. Separating the effects of litter quality and microenvironment on decomposition rates in a patterned peatland. Oikos 77: 529–539.

Teaching

Over the past few years, I have taught on several undergraduate and postgraduate modules. Currently, I teach on the following:

Research

Research interests:

Current research projects:


Peatlands

Ecohydrological feedbacks and non-linear dynamics in peatlands
Peatlands have potential for strong feedback on the global climate system, but their response to future climate change is highly uncertain.  Rather than gradual change, peatlands show long periods of little change, punctuated by abrupt transitions of state even under weak or steady environmental forcing. In ongoing research, my aim is to understand the ecohydrological feedbacks that control the non-linear behaviour of these systems. Field-based and modelling studies focus on the interactions among hydrological processes, organic matter dynamics, and energy exchanges. A key theme focusses on the role of spatial heterogeneity and surface patterning in mediating these interactions.

How will ecosystem shifts due to sea level rise affect carbon storage and greenhouse gas fluxes in floodplain fens?
One of the biggest challenges facing conservation organisations is to adapt to climate change in a way that balances habitat conservation and provision of ecosystem services. Low-lying areas of the Broads are subject to increasing flooding and saline influence owing to sea-level rise. These environmental changes are likely to alter greenhouse gas emissions and carbon sequestration, as well as habitats. The overarching aim of this project is to deliver the new knowledge and decision-support tools required by conservation land managers in the Broads to adapt effectively to sea-level rise, i.e., to maintain or increase the amount of carbon sequestered and minimize the emission of greenhouse gases, without compromising the central conservation value of managed lands. Funding: NERC Open CASE studentship, with the Broads Authority.

Lowland peatland systems in England and Wales – evaluating greenhouse gas fluxes and carbon balances
Lowland peatlands that have been subject to human disturbance and inappropriate land management can release large quantities of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, but direct measurements of greenhouse gas emissions from these systems are sparse. This project, led by the University of Leeds, will provide the first full carbon and greenhouse gas budgets for lowland peats across England and Wales. Results will be used to develop 'emission factors' for each peat type under a range of management activities. The results should improve the evidence base on which  national policymakers and local land-managers make decisions on the management of lowland peats, allowing them to balance the role of peatlands in regulating greenhouse gas emissions against the many other ecosystem services they provide. Funding: Defra.


Peatlands landscape

Publications

Selected publications

A more complete list of publications is available here. You can also view my online profiles at ResearcherID  and Google Scholar. E-prints of most of the articles are available by request.

Edited books

  • Baird, Andrew J., Belyea, Lisa R., Comas, Xavier, Reeve, A.S., and Slater, Lee D. (Editors) 2009. Carbon Cycling in Northern Peatlands. Geophysical Monograph Series 184. American Geophysical Union, Washington, D.C. 299 pages.

Book chapters

  • Baird, A.J., Belyea, L.R., and Morris, P. 2009. Upscaling of peatland-atmosphere fluxes of methane: small-scale heterogeneity in process rates and the pitfalls of “bucket-and-slab” models. In: Carbon Cycling in Northern Peatlands. Geophysical Monograph Series 184. American Geophysical Union, Washington, D.C. pp. 37–53. [e-print available on request]
  • Belyea, L.R. 2009. Nonlinear dynamics of peatlands and potential feedbacks on the climate system. In: Carbon Cycling in Northern Peatlands. Geophysical Monograph Series 184. American Geophysical Union, Washington, D.C. pp. 5-18. [e-print available on request]
  • Belyea, L.R. 2004. Beyond ecological filters: feedback networks in the assembly and restoration of community structure. In: Assembly Rules and Restoration Ecology. Bridging the Gap between Theory and Practice. (V.M. Temperton, R. Hobbs, T. Nuttle and S. Halle, eds), Island Press, Washington. pp. 115–131.
  • Belyea, L.R. and Clymo, R.S. 1999. Do hollows control the rate of peat bog growth?  In:  Patterned Mires and Mire Pools (V. Standen, J. Tallis and R. Meade, eds), British Ecological Society, London.  pp. 55–65.

Journal articles

  • Abbott, G.D., Swain, E.Y., Muhammad, A.B., Allton, K., Belyea, L.R., Laing, C.G., and Cowie, G.L. 2013. Effect of water-table fluctuations on the degradation of Sphagnum phenols in surficial peats. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 106: 177–191. DOI 10.1016/j.gca.2012.12.013 [e-print available on request]
  • Morris, P.J., Baird, A.J., and Belyea, L.R. 2012. The DigiBog peatland development model 2: Ecohydrological simulations in 2-D. Ecohydrology 5: 256–268. DOI 10.1002/eco.229  [e-print available on request]
  • Baird, A.J., Morris, P.J., and Belyea, L.R. 2012. The DigiBog peatland development model 1: Rationale, conceptual model, and hydrological basis. Ecohydrology 5: 242–255. DOI 10.1002/eco.230 [e-print available on request]
  • Morris, P.J., Belyea, L.R., and Baird, A.J. 2011. Ecohydrological feedbacks in peatland development: a theoretical modelling study. Journal of Ecology 99: 1190–1201. DOI 10.1111/j.1365-2745.2011.01842.x [e-print available on request]
  • Eppinga, M.B., Rietkerk, M., Belyea, L.R., Nilsson, M.B., De Ruiter, P.C., and Wassen, M.J. 2010. Resource contrast in patterned peatlands increases along a climatic gradient. Ecology 91: 2344–2355. DOI 10.1890/09-1313.1 [e-print available on request]
  • Cutler, N.A., Belyea, L.R., and Dugmore, A.J. 2008. Spatial patterns of microsite colonisation on two young lava flows, Mt Hekla, Iceland. Journal of Vegetation Science 19: 277–286. DOI 10.3170/2008-8-18371 [e-print available on request]
  • Cutler, N.A., Belyea, L.R., and Dugmore, A.J. 2008. The spatiotemporal dynamics of a primary succession.Journal of Ecology 96(2): 231–246. DOI 10.1111/j.1365-2745.2007.01344.x [e-print available on request]
  • Belyea, L.R. 2007. Revealing the Emperor’s new clothes: niche-based palaeoenvironmental reconstruction in the light of recent ecological theory. The Holocene 17: 683–688. 10.1177/0959683607079002 [e-print available on request]
  • Belyea, L.R. 2007. Climatic and topographic constraints on the abundance of bog pools. Hydrological Processes 21(5): 675–687. DOI 10.1002/hyp.6275 [e-print available on request]
  • Belyea, L.R. and Baird, A.J. 2006. Beyond “the limits to peat bog growth”: cross-scale feedback in peatland development. Ecological Monographs 76: 299–322. DOI 10.1890/0012-9615(2006)076[0299:BTLTPB]2.0.CO;2 [e-print available on request]
  • Lancaster, J. and Belyea, L.R. 2006. Defining the limits to local density: alternative views of abundance-environment relationships. Freshwater Biology 51: 783–796. 10.1111/j.1365-2427.2006.01518.x [e-print available on request]
  • Belyea, L.R. and Malmer, N. 2004. Carbon sequestration in peatland: patterns and mechanisms of response to climate change. Global Change Biology 10: 1043–1052. DOI 10.1111/j.1529-8817.2003.00783.x [e-print available on request]
  • Belyea, L.R. and Lancaster, J. 2002. Inferring landscape dynamics of bog pools from scaling relationships and spatial patterns. Journal of Ecology 90: 223–234. DOI 10.1046/j.1365-2745.2001.00647.x [e-print available on request]
  • Belyea, L.R. and Clymo, R.S. 2001. Feedback control of the rate of peat formation.  Proceedings of the Royal Society of London: Biological Sciences 268: 1315–1321. DOI 10.1098/rspb.2001.1665 [e-print available on request]
  • Belyea, L.R., and Lancaster, J. 1999. Assembly rules within a contingent ecology. Oikos 86: 402–416. [e-print available on request]
  • Belyea, L.R. 1999. A novel indicator of reducing conditions and water-table depth in mires. Functional Ecology 13:431–434. DOI 10.1046/j.1365-2435.1999.00333.x.
  • Robertson, A.L., Lancaster, J., Belyea, L.R. & Hildrew, A.G. 1997. Hydraulic habitat and the assemblage structure of stream benthic microcrustacea. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 16: 562–575.
  • Lancaster, J., and Belyea, L.R. 1997. Nested hierarchies and scale-dependence of flow refugium use.  Journal of the North American Benthological Society 16: 221–238.
  • Belyea, L.R. 1996. Separating the effects of litter quality and microenvironment on decomposition rates in a patterned peatland. Oikos 77: 529–539.
  • Belyea, L.R., and Warner, B.G. 1996. Temporal scale and the accumulation of peat in a Sphagnum bog. Canadian Journal of Botany 74: 366–377.
  • Belyea, L.R., and Warner, B.G. 1994. Dating of the near-surface layer of a peatland in northwestern Ontario, Canada. Boreas 23: 259–269.
  • Aravena, R., Warner, B.G., Charman, D.J., Belyea, L.R., Mathur, S.P., and Dinel, H. 1993. Carbon isotopic composition of deep carbon gases in an ombrogenous peatland, northwestern Ontario, Canada. Radiocarbon 35: 271–276.

PhD Supervision

Postgraduate research opportunities in Earth Surface Science

If you are interested in doing a PhD or MSc in my research area, please email me a CV and a brief summary of your idea.

Current PhD students:

  • Eleanor Webster (with Kate Heppell, QMUL, and Andrea Kelly, Broads Authority) PhD, QMUL. How will ecosystem shifts due to sea-level rise affect carbon storage and greenhouse gas fluxes in floodplain fens? NERC Open CASE studentship, with the Broads Authority.
  • Kieran Stanley (with Kate Heppell, QMUL, and Andy Baird, Leeds University) PhD, QMUL. Impacts of nutrient loading on greenhouse gas emissions from floodplain fens. NERC algorithm studentship/College studentship, with additional research funding as part of a larger project funded by Defra.
  • Michelle Morris (with Kate Spencer, QMUL, and Brian Branfireun, University of Western Ontario) PhD, QMUL. Hydrological and biogeochemical controls on mercury cycling in managed realignment sites. NERC algorithm studentship/College studentship, with additional research support from the University of Western Ontario.

Past PhD students:

  • Paul Morris (with Andy Baird, now at Leeds University) PhD, QMUL. Modelling peatlands as complex adaptive systems. Current employment: Research scientist, Reading University.
  • Nick Cutler (with Andy Dugmore, University of Edinburgh) PhD, Edinburgh. Ecosystem development on Icelandic lava fields. Current employment: College lecturer, Cambridge University.

Past MSc students:

  • Phil Francis MSc, University of Edinburgh. Close-range photogrammetry using consumer-grade digital cameras for environmental research.
  • Ishikawa Hiroshi MSc, University of Edinburgh. Modelling the current and future distribution of peatlands in Canada.
  • Cláudia Franco MSc, University of Edinburgh. How does spatial distribution of birds in Portugal relate to environmental factors?

Public engagement

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