School of GeoSciences

School of GeoSciences


Dr Lisa Belyea, NERC Advanced Fellow

Address: Institute of Geography, School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh, Drummond Street, Edinburgh EH8 9XP, UK

Tel: +44 (0)131 650 9508; Fax: +44 (0)131 650 2524; Email:


Research interests:

My research interests focus on systems ecology, especially the coupling of ecosystem dynamics to organisational units at smaller (community) and larger (landscape) scales. My empirical research concentrates on peatlands, following two main lines of investigation.

Silver Flowe Links between community dynamics and ecosystem processes

On bogs, the key ecosystem processes of peat accumulation and water storage are linked inextricably to each other, and to the plant communities growing at the surface. I am interested in long-term development of the peat deposit and groundwater mound, as well as in shorter-term development of surface microtopography. Recent work on a bog in southern Sweden has shown how peat accumulation over the past 5000 years was controlled by both climate change and internal developmental changes: carbon sequestration increased abruptly with major shifts in vegetation and wetter climates, and decreased gradually with development of the groundwater mound and with surface development of flooded microhabitats (Belyea and Malmer, 2004). Work on a bog in southwestern Scotland has demonstrated that the non-linear relationship between rate of peat formation and water-table depth controls development of surface microtopography, and allows certain features (hummocks) to persist despite year-to-year fluctuations in water supply (Belyea and Clymo, 2001). In current work, I am investigating feedbacks between microtopographic development and hydrological processes of water loss and storage.


Inverewe BogsSpatial pattern formation at the landscape scale

On many northern peatlands, the surface cover is a mosaic of dry ridges and flooded hollows or pools forming spectacular spatial patterns. I am interested in the mechanisms by which these patterns arise, and in defining the limits to distribution of peatland patterning. Work on a bog in northwestern Scotland has shown how spatial analyses of pool size, shape and distribution can be used to test specific hypotheses of pattern formation (Belyea and Lancaster, 2002). A recent field survey of several patterned peatlands has demonstrated that the proportional coverage of pools is constrained by surface gradient (manuscript in preparation). In current work, I am developing methods to obtain spatial information at intermediate scales (i.e., coverage in the order of 20 m by 20 m), and testing specific mechanisms of pattern formation by manipulative experiment. I am also developing a spatially-explicit model of pattern formation, based on local interaction among microhabitats.


Selected publications:

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. [pdf reprint]

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. [pdf reprint]

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. [pdf reprint]

Belyea, L.R. and Lancaster, J. (1999) Assembly rules within a contingent ecology. Oikos 86: 402-416.

Belyea, L.R. (1999) A novel indicator of reducing conditions and water-table depth in mires. Functional Ecology 13: 431-434. [pdf reprint]

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.


PhD opportunities:

The application deadline for NERC-funded PhD studentships has passed.

For further information on postgraduate study and other possible sources of funding, see the School of GeoSciences postgraduate web-page.


Web links:

bes-mire is an email discussion list for research on mires and peatlands, sponsored by the Mires Research Group of the British Ecological Society.