Announcement of Opportunity: Scoping group for enhancing resilience of UK peatlands

Closing date: 16:00 on 23 March 2017

NERC invites applications to join a scoping group that will develop the science case for a potential strategic research programme on enhancing resilience of UK peatlands.

This is one of two potential strategic programme areas (SPAs) which have emerged from the ideas process for strategic research. Any potential SPA must meet NERC's criteria for a strategic programme, so it is possible that neither will result in a funded programme.

Peatlands are one of the most spatially-intensive stores of carbon on land, covering around 3% of the global land area whilst storing one-third of global soil carbon. Within the UK, extensive drainage and cultivation of peatlands for agriculture and forestry production have reversed the naturally-occurring carbon (ie peat) accumulation processes. This has resulted in release of carbon back into the atmosphere, thus acting against climate change mitigation efforts.

Over 80% of UK peatlands are no longer in a near natural state and some are highly degraded. As a result, peatlands are now by far the largest single source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the UK land-use sector. Furthermore, their degradation has been linked to significant changes in water quality, land subsidence, flood risk, and biodiversity loss. This pattern is now being repeated globally with estimates that, whilst drained and degrading peatlands occupy only 0·3% of global land area, they contribute 6% of all global anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions.

The high level objective of this SPA is to provide a step change in understanding peatland functioning and services to enable resilient management and mitigate disturbances from environmental change. It seeks a transformation in knowledge on how human land use is currently altering peatland ecosystem processes, and how land use practices can be adapted to protect and restore the important ecosystem functions and services associated with peatlands. The step change in conceptual understanding will have global relevance for developing more sustainable land use practices that work with natural processes. New practices will be essential to achieve climate change mitigation targets and meet growing demands for food, water and biodiversity related services.

Key scientific questions

  • What are the main influences on peatland formation and degradation processes?
  • How can we establish peatland resilience during land use to secure the provision of GHG mitigation processes and wider ecosystem services?

Applications are invited from individuals wishing to join the scoping group that will develop the science case for consideration by NERC.

Scoping group meeting

Professor Lisa Belyea of the Queen Mary University of London has agreed to chair the scoping group. Members will be selected by NERC via an open call for self-nomination. It is anticipated that the scoping group will be made up of around 10-12 individuals and will have an appropriate scientific balance. Members of the scoping group are expected to act as representatives of their scientific disciplines, and to act in the interests of the scientific community as a whole, rather than representing personal or institutional interests.

The composition of the group will be decided by NERC with input from the chair of the scoping group and a representative of NERC's Strategic Programme Advisory Group (SPAG). NERC reserves the right to appoint members to the scoping group who haven't applied to achieve the balance of representation required.

The scoping group will convene for a two-day meeting which all members must attend. The group will be tasked with producing a science case by the end of June 2017. This meeting will take place on 11-12 May 2017 at a venue in the London area. By applying to join this scoping group you are confirming your availability to attend the two-day meeting.

If the proposed research programme is approved, members of the scoping group will be able to apply for funding, subject to normal NERC eligibility rules.


Applicants should complete the form below and submit it via email to by 16:00 on 23 March 2017. Successful applicants will be informed of the outcome by 4 April 2017.

Scoping group application form (Word, 26KB)

NERC will cover all reasonable travel and subsistence costs associated with attending the two-day meeting in line with NERC policy.


Lizzie Garratt