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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Professor Matti Seppälä

COFUND Senior Research Fellow at Ustinov College, Durham University (October - December 2013 & April - May 2014)

Matti Kullervo Seppälä is Professor (ret) in physical geography at the University of Helsinki, Finland. Prof Seppälä is a leading, internationally-acclaimed academic and is considered to arguably be the leading international authority on palsas and related periglacial features, especially in peatland landscapes.

European peatlands are under threat from changing climate and mismanagement. They are particularly sensitive to erosion by wind, water and frost but little is known about these factors. The aim of this project is to better understand the impacts of erosion on the resilience and stability of European peatlands. This is significant because Finland and the UK collectively account for approximately half the European peatland carbon resource.

The project will:

1) Review peat erosion studies across European and provide a synthesis of current understanding;

2) carry out field experiments at a North Pennine UK and Finnish field site to determine controls on the abrasion of peat by wind action;

3) develop and test a laboratory modelling facility to test frost heave potential in peat soils and compare to field observations from UK and Finnish test sites; and

4) host a workshop in Durham of peatland erosion and cryospheric scientists to discuss the impact of changing climate and erosion on the stability of peat soils.

The Fellowship is particularly relevant for the IHRR agenda, given the focus of environmental risk management in the face of environmental change.

“This is an excellent scheme to establish International contacts and to facilitate overseas scientists working on joint projects at Durham University.”

Professor Matti Seppälä, University of Helsinki