Dr Chris Laing, BSc Hons (Bath), MSc (Bangor), PhD (Oxford Brookes)
Visiting Research Fellow
School of Geography
Queen Mary, University of London
Mile End Road,
London E1 4NS, UK
Tel: +44 (0)207 8822777
My research focuses on the decomposition of organic carbon in wetland environments. I am particularly interested in peatland ecosystems, which I study from the site to the microbial scale.
Organic matter turnover in peatlands
Decomposition below the peatland water table is inherently slow and has resulted in the accumulation of substantial amounts of carbon since the last ice-age. My current research with Lisa Belyea (Queen Mary University London) focuses on better understanding the geochemical controls on organic matter turnover in peat. This is of special importance when considering the temperature sensitivity of soil carbon decomposition and may help us estimate the effects of future climate change on these important terrestrial carbon sinks. In collaboration with Greg Cowie (University of Edinburgh) and Geoff Abbott (University of Newcastle) we are studying the geochemical signatures of diagenesis in peat. Our field work and ecosystem analyses are carried out in Sweden in collaboration with Håkan Rydin (Uppsala University, Sweden).
The distribution and transport of decomposition gases in peat
Peatlands contribute substantial amounts of methane (CH4) to the global atmospheric budget. The distribution and transport of CH4 throughout the peat profile (but mainly in the upper 0.5 m) are important parameters for model-based estimates of peatland gas efflux when considering future climates. My PhD research with Deborah Pearce (Oxford Brookes University) utilised high resolution, in situ gas measurement tobetter understand these parameters and quantify their variability. Gases can be both stored and released from methanogenic, aquatic environments as bubbles. Approaches developed during my PhD have applications in the study of ebullition from environments like river basins, peatlands and thermokarst lakes in permafrost regions. An ongoing research question is just how much gas is stored beneath peatlands (especially deep peat) and how do we best incorporate ebullition into flux models?
Molecular analysis of environmental samples
I am interested in the microbial communities that produce and consume methane and have studied them using Fluorescent in situ Hybridisation (FISH) and confocal microscopywith John Runions (Oxford Brookes University). There are many challenges that limit accurate quantification of microbial communities and an ongoing research aim is to describe the spatial community structure of any environmental sample with high levels of contamination.
If you have experienced issues including fluorescent dye chelating by humic compounds, limited access of probe to particle attached cells and novel sequences in natural environments please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss.
Laing, C. G., Shreeve, T. G. and Pearce, D. M. E. The fine scale resolution of methane in surface peat cores. Submitted.
Laing, C. G., Shreeve, T. G. and Pearce, D. M. E (2008) Methane bubbles in surface cores: in situ measurements. Global Change Biology. 14: 916–924.
Laing, C. G., Shreeve, T. G. and Pearce, D. M. E. (2008) In situ measurement of methane bubbles in surface wetland cores. Oral presentation at the 8th International INTECOL, Cuiaba, Brazil, July 2008.
Laing, C. G., Shreeve, T. G. and Pearce, D. M. E. (2008) Methane from peat bogs: characterising the zone of peak production. Oral presentation at the British Ecological Society, University College London, September 2008.
Laing, C. G., Shreeve, T. G. and Pearce, D. M. E. (2007) Methane from peat bogs: characterising the zone of peak production. Oral presentation at Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Climate Change workshop, Leeds 2007.