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School of Geography

Andy Baird Prof Andy Baird

Contact details

Room 10.37 Garstang
School of Geography
University of Leeds
University Road
Leeds LS2 9JT   UK


+44 (0) 113 34 36834

Student hours:
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Research overview

To understand ecosystem dynamics in wetlands, particularly peatlands, with a focus on the water and carbon cycles and on the use of numerical models.

Much of my research considers the physical processes of water, heat and gas transfer in peat soils. Peatlands are globally-important carbon stores (they contain at least a third of the global soil carbon store) and are both sinks and sources of atmospheric carbon dioxide and sources of atmospheric methane. Because of this, they are thought to exert an important control on global climate. Carbon balance processes in peatlands are strongly influenced by hydrological and thermal processes. For example:

  • When the peatland water table is near the peatland surface, more methane (produced during the anaerobic decay of peat) is lost to the atmosphere than when the water table is further below the surface.
  • Methane is produced by micro-organisms from the Archaea and the rate of production is strongly temperature-dependent (it increases with temperature).

Methane is lost from peat soils via diffusion through peat pore water and plants and via the movement of methane-containing gas bubbles. The balance between these different mechanisms of loss can have a large effect on the total amount of methane emitted from a peatland and some of my recent work has sought to elucidate the processes involved in bubble formation and losses. This work is being done in collaboration with Andy Binley (Lancaster University), Tom Coulthard (University of Hull), Sophie Green (Queen Mary University of London), Nick Kettridge (Lancaster University), Jorge Ramirez (no current affiliation) and Mike Waddington (McMaster University).

Other peatland work that I am involved with includes:

  • Losses of dissolved organic carbon (DOC), dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC), and particulate organic carbon (POC) from peatlands via natural soil pipes. This work is being done in collaboration with Joe Holden and Pippa Chapman (both colleagues in the School of Geography at Leeds), and Mike Billet and Kerry Dinsmore (Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Edinburgh).
  • Modelling peat formation / peatland development over timescales of 10¹- 10³ years. A suite of models under the name DigiBog is being developed for this purpose. The models simulate peat accumulation (carbon sequestration) and allow for interactions between hydrological and ecological processes across a variety of spatial and temporal scales. The models are examples of a complex adaptive system (CAS) and show emergent behaviour. It is planned to link the CAS models to wetland methane emission models to improve predictions of wetland methane emissions over the next 100-200 years. This work is being done in collaboration with Paul Morris (Queen Mary University of London and, from autumn 2009, McMaster University) and Lisa Belyea (Queen Mary University of London).

Finally, I am also interested in the subsurface hydrological behaviour of coastal sediments (beaches and sand dunes) and the links between ecological and hydrological processes on hillslopes.

PhD Supervision

I welcome PhD applications in the following areas:

  • Wetland ecohydrology
  • Computer simulation of peatland development
  • Modelling of ecological and hydrological interactions on temperate hillslopes
  • Improving the characterisation of the hydrological and hydraulic properties of soils

Research students

  • Imelda Stamp (started January 2007) Free-phase Methane Dynamics in Peat Soils,
    Queen Mary University of London.
  • Paul Morris (started September 2005) Modelling Peatlands as Complex Adaptive Systems,
    Queen Mary University of London.
  • Luke Ridley (started September 2008), Northern Peatlands – A Sensitive Carbon Reservoir: Characterising and Quantifying Organic Matter Transformations and Loss, University of Edinburgh.


No information at present.