My research investigates the resilience of wetland ecosystems to both climate change and disturbance regimes, as well as the roles these ecosystems can play as natural climate solutions.

I like to use a multi-scale approach, combining both field research and laboratory analysis with remote sensing and modelling approaches to better constrain spatio-temporal dynamics of wetland ecosystems.

With my work, I aim to contribute to a better understanding of the complex feedbacks between ecosystem resilience and disturbance regimes under a rapidly changing climate.

Research themes

Swamp/wet woodland carbon dynamics and ecosystem functioning

I am interested in improving our understanding of swamps/wet woodland ecosystem functioning globally. These are incredibly important yet under-appreciated wetland ecosystems. I am also a co-founder of the Wet Woodlands Research Network.

Wet woodland site, Slapton Ley, Devon, UK (Photo credit: Scott J Davidson)
Boreal spruce (needle-leaved) swamp, northern Alberta, Canada (Photo credit: Scott J Davidson)
Temperate broad-leaved swamp, Ontario, Canada (Photo credit: Carlos de Araujo Barreto)
Image caption: Summary of mean (±SD) Aboveground NPP, aboveground biomass, growing season soil CO2 flux and CH4 flux and total soil organic carbon stock for depths 0–30 cm, 30–60 cm, 60–90 cm and 90–120 cm where available for (A) broad-leaved, (B) needle-leaved, (C) mixedwood and (D) shrub/thicket swamps from the published literature across Canada and the USA. See Davidson et al. 2022 for more details

Wildfire impacts on peatland carbon cycling

I am interested in the vulnerability and resilience of peatland ecosystems to the impacts of wildfire. This includes vegetation dynamics following wildfire and post-fire biogeochemical cycling and carbon fluxes.

Image Caption: A) A natural, undisturbed peatland containing environmental conditions suitable for CH4 production and emissions such as high water tables, suitable substrate conditions, vegetation communities and anoxic, belowground conditions and B) the hypothetical reduction in CH4 production and emissions following wildfire through reduction in methanogenic community and substrate availability. Figure by Natasa Popovic

Anthropogenic disturbance impacts on peatland functioning

Similarly, I am interested in how peatland ecosystems function following disturbance following human activities, including drainage, resource extraction and forestry practices. This includes looking at soil characteristics, vegetation community dynamics and carbon fluxes.

Image Caption: Infographic created by Fuse Consulting Ltd about our study (Davidson et al. 2020) looking at the impact of linear disturbances known as seismic lines on soil physical and chemical characteristics.

Upscaling ecosystem functioning from plot scale to landscape scale

I am really interested in how we can use our understanding of ecosystem functions at the plot scale and scale them up to the landscape scale. This work includes looking at mapping vegetation communities at large scales, upscaling greenhouse gas emissions and improving our understanding of wetland vegetation phenological characteristics to improve earth system and climate models.

Image caption: Infographic created by Fuse Consulting Ltd based on our study (Davidson et al. 2021) looking at using smartphone photography to understand peatland disturbances.
Image Caption: Illustration of the multi-scale approach I like to use in my research to gain a better understanding of ecosystem functions 1) plot scale and microbial measurements of CH4 production and emissions, 2) mapping of vegetation communities using unpiloted aerial vehicles at the site scale and 3) upscaling plot scale findings to the landscape scale using remote sensing. Figure by Natasa Popovic.