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Mr Matt Kent

Professional biography

I am a doctoral researcher in the Environment, Earth and Ecosystems department of CEPSAR at The Open University. My PhD title is "Greenhouse gas evasion from channels draining intact and deforested tropical peatlands" and my project supervisors are Vince Gauci (Open University), Sue Page (University of Leicester), Sunitha Pangala (Open University) and Chris Evans (Centre for Ecology and Hydrology).

Currently, I am investigating the effect that deforestation and drainage has on tropical peat swamp forests, specifically in terms of the greenhouse gases that are emitted from the channels that drain them. This investigation includes between-season and pre- and post-El Niño comparisons, the latter with a view to better understand the effects of a severe fire season.

I also am looking at the seasonal geochemistry of the channels and the degradability and ultimate fate of dissolved organic carbon within these channels. These data will feed in to models of the long-term instability of degraded peat swamp forests and allow for the modelling of carbon loss from the ecosystem over time.

I did my undergraduate degree at Bangor University under the tutelage of Chris Freeman, and worked as a research assistant on several projects at the Wolfson Carbon Caputure Laboratory. Here I investigated factors that influence activity of the ubiquitous biodegrading enzyme, phenol oxidase, also known as the "enzymic latch" due its pivotal role in enhancing breakdown of recalcitrant organic carbon, particularly in peat soils. This work also included my final year project which investigated some of the physicochemical factors constraining various biodegrading enzymes in intact and deforested Bornean peat swamp forest soils.

I have also worked as a sediment ecology research assistant at the School of Ocean Sciences, Bangor University and served aboard the RV Prince Madog on research cruises to the Irish Sea.

During my time at Bangor University, I was awarded a 1st-class honours, the Pen-y-Ffridd Prize and held three society presidencies over two years, one culminating in the university's Academic Society of the Year award.

Research interests

Overview

My primary research interests relate to tropical peat swamp forest ecosystems in Borneo, specifically their ecological functioning and biogeochemistry.

Peatlands are carbon-dense, carbon-accreting terrestrial ecosystems. Indonesian peatlands alone contain over 10% of all carbon held in peat soils globally, yet cover much less than 1% of Earth's surface. As such they are vital components of global carbon soil-atmosphere exchange processes which include the emission of the two most important greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide and methane.

Tropical peatlands are currently extremely vulnerable to destabilisation through climate- and human-induced changes, including the rapid destruction of the ecosystem via conversion of the land for plantation agriculture, notably for the controversial "green fuel" crop, oil palm. Previous investigations by this research group have shown that current estimates of carbon loss from drained and deforested peatlands neglect fluvial fluxes as a major loss pathway for carbon. This additional carbon loss from the peat store is exacerbated following fires which are increasing in frequency and intensity in Indonesia as a result of deforestation and climatic change.

In this project we aim to quantify channel greenhouse gas fluxes from degraded peat swamp forest and compare them to an its intact analogue. These are so far unknown terms in catchment-scale peat swamp forest carbon cycling, and so will allow for a fuller understanding of the carbon balance of these systems. Fieldwork has taken place over two years and data have been obtained that will allow between-season, and pre- and post-El Niño fire season, fluxes to be compared. We will also determine the bio- and photo-degradability of dissolved organic carbon to asses how much carbon dioxide may be produced instream.

identify the ultimate fate of this fluvial carbon and how much gets metabolised in-stream and is converted to greenhouse gases. Answers to these questions will contribute to informing tropical peatland conservation/management practice, carbon credit systems and input into regional/global climate models.

Beyond this main research question I have research interests including the ecosystem goods and services, future sustainability and biodiversity of tropical peat swamp forests.

 

 

Impact and engagement

  • BES Sex, Bugs 'n' Rock 'n' Roll road crew

External collaborations

  • University of Palangka Raya, Central Kalimantan, Indonesia
  • Center for International Cooperation in Sustainable Management of Tropical Peatland, Central Kalimantan, Indonesia
  • The Orangutan Tropical Peatland Project, Central Kalimantan, Indonesia
  • NERC Radiocarbon Facility, Scotland, UK
  • University of Linköping, Sweden

 

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