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School of Geography

Thomas Sim Thomas Sim

Contact details

School of Geography
University of Leeds
University Road
Leeds LS2 9JT   UK



Masters by Research project title

Response of Arctic permafrost peatlands to climate change

Project Overview

Permafrost peatlands store globally-important amounts of carbon (Tarcocai et al., 2009), that has remained largely inert for millennia because of frozen soil conditions. However, understanding of how peatland processes and feedbacks with climate interact (Swindles et al., 2012); and how the carbon flux of northern peatlands will respond to current climatic warming remains a key area of research (Belyea, 2009; Waddington et al., 2014; Morris et al., 2015). More specifically, the impact of thawing permafrost upon peatland carbon flux of CO2 and CH4 and potential climate feedbacks with warming in the 21st century remains a matter of debate (Gorham, 1991; Dorrepaal et al., 2009; Frolking et al., 2011; Olefeldt et al., 2013).

A greater understanding of carbon dynamics and feedbacks in permafrost peatlands as a response to climate forcing is essential to ensure accurate prediction of future climate change (Chaudhary et al., 2017) and to best advise management practices (McLaughlin and Webster, 2013). Palaeoenvironmental investigations into the response of carbon accumulation, hydrological processes and plant ecology of permafrost peatlands to climate in recent decades and centuries will help address a gap in current knowledge beyond the timespan of contemporary observational and experimental studies of peatland response to climatic forcing (Yu, 2012; Loisel et al., 2014; Swindles et al., 2015a).

Project aim

To investigate late Holocene dynamics of permafrost peatlands in Arctic Canada


Component 1: Sub-Arctic Sweden (Abisko)

1. To investigate the hydrological response of permafrost peatlands in the Abisko region to recent climate warming.

2. To use these data to test the 5-stage conceptual model proposed by Swindles et al. (2015) in Arctic Sweden.

Component 2: High Arctic Canada

3. To explore the potential of palaeoecological method for understanding ecohydrological changes in high Arctic permafrost peatlands.

4. To determine recent carbon accumulation rates in high Arctic permafrost peatlands.




  • 2012-2016 University of Leeds, UK - BSc (Hons) Geography (International)
  • 2014-2015 University of Queensland, Australia – Study abroad year