Prof. Angela Gallego-Sala
Professor In Ecosystems and Biogeochemical Cycles
+44 (0) 1392 725873
Laver Building 807
Laver Building, University of Exeter, North Park Road, Exeter, EX4 4QE, UK
I am a biogeochemist with expertise in climatic regulation of carbon fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems. My particular area of expertise is peatlands and I have targeted my research to peatlands situated in different climatic zones to build a global perspective. I am also well placed to bridge empirical field/laboratory methods and global modelling. My career aim is to elucidate the unique role of peatlands in the Earth System covering multiple time horizons, e.g. from peat inception and accumulation over the Holocene, through to the potential impacts of enhanced peatland emissions accelerating climate change, with clear policy-relevance for avoiding dangerous climate change. I use a variety of methods in order to achieve this, including gas flux measurements, the paleo-record, modelling and biogeochemistry.
I was recently awarded an ERC Consolidator grant (TroPeaCC) focussed on tropical peatland carbon cycling. This work will complement a NERC funded project entitled: "ICAAP: Increased Carbon Accumulation in Arctic Peatlands". I am co-I in two exciting grants, both studying different aspects of tropical peatlands: "KaLi: Multiple risks associated with drought and peatland fires in Indonesian Borneo" (GCRF funded) and "Ecosystem Carbon and Nitrogen Dynamics of Tropical Peatland (EDANDOTP)" funded by the Malaysian Oil Palm Board.
I was previously involved in a NERC-funded project entitled “Peatlands and the global carbon cycle during the past millennium: an assessment using observations and models”. I previously worked in Lund, Sweden, modelling the dynamic interactions of fire, vegetation, climate and human population in Mediterranean areas as part of the FUME European project. Earlier on, I worked at the University of Bristol, on a project entitled “Climate Change and the Uplands” commissioned by the Environment Agency, to study the implications of climate change for peatland soils in the UK and the effects on ecosystem services including carbon storage, flooding and water quality.
Previously, I worked towards a PhD funded by NERC with a CASE studentship entitled “Temperature effects on trace gas production and uptake in aerobic and anaerobic soils” at the University of Bristol
PhD in Biogeochemistry of Peatlands. University of Bristol
Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education. Canterbury Christ Church University
MSc. Degree in Chemistry. University of Kent
BSc. Degree in Chemistry. Universidad Complutense de Madrid
Research group links
I am a biogeochemist and I study peatlands, in particular, I am interesting in the role they play in the C cycle and also in the management of these beautiful ecosystems in order to preserve all of the ecosystem services and invisible benefits they provide. I currently I have projects that span the whole globe from the poles (Arctic, Antarctic) to the tropics (S America, SE Asia, Africa, Australia). I also used a variety of different methods that ranges from palaeo-biogeochemistry to present-day fluxes and future forecasting using models.
1) Understanding the processes driving functioning of peatland ecosystems and the carbon exchanges at the global scale in order to be able to predict their fate in a changing climate. Within this research area, I run a number of on-going projects:
i) The Arctic peatland carbon sink is the focus of the recently awarded NERC-funded project that started in 2019. This project will shed light into the conditions necessary for new peatland expansion in new areas of the Arctic that are now suitable for plant growth due to the lengthening of the growing season. Additionally, the project will explore the response of existing sub-Arctic peatlands to the amplified warming they are experiencing. I am a project partners in two parallel projects also investigating similar topics: an MSB-FRA project: Peat expansion in Arcit Tundra (TundraPEAT) led by Zicheng Yu, US. and a project funded by the Finnish Academy led by Minna Valiranta (Response of high-latitude peatlands to past and recent warming - predictions for future climate feedbacks).
ii) The tropical peatland carbon sink is the focus of the ERC Consolidator grant that will start soon. I will work on the key questions: environmental and climatic controls on peatland extent, controls on carbon accumulation rates and also on methane emissions from tropical peatlands. All are these are areas in which our knowledge is limited. This project proposes to use the palaeo record, modern day fluxes and modelling as complementary tools. This work is also complemented by the grant in which I am a Co-I: “Ecosystem Carbon and Nitrogen Dynamics of Tropical Peatlands” funded by the Malaysian Oil Palm Board led by Tim Hill.
iii) Past changes and Antarctic science – I am the main supervisor in a PhD project reconstructing quaternary changes in wind over the Southern Ocean in order to understand how the ocean C sink has changed in the past (student: Alex Whittle, co-supervisors Dan Charman, Dom Hodgson and Stephen Roberts). Additionally, I am also involved in a project to reconstruct temperatures using the peatland record and GDGTs in Antarctic samples (with David Naafs, Bristol and Stephen Roberts at BAS).
iv) Biogeochemistry of peatlands – I am a co-supervisor in a current PhD project working on biomarkers of methanogenic archaea and the development of proxies to understand past changes in the decomposition processes in peatlands based at the University of Bristol (Jerome Blewett: supervised by Dr Naafs and Prof Pancost and myself). And I also co-supervise a PhD project based in Bristol (Anne Eberle: supervised by Casey Bryce) working on Actic peatlands on a project entitled: "How do redox and temperature fluctuations influence mineral protection of organic matter during permafrost thaw?"
2) Peatland management, restoration and land use change impacts on peatland ecosystem functioning. The knowledge derived from the following projects will hopefully be useful in assessing ecosystem service provision and management of peatlands.
i) Peatland ecosystem services in the UK– I currently supervise a project on sphagnum reintroduction in Exmoor peatlands, funded by SWW (student: Paul Tansley), co-supervised by Morag Angus. I am also co-supervisor of a PhD student based at Bristol working in the Welsh peatlands on a project entitled: "Assessing the impact of Black Mountains peatland restoration on freshwater ecosystems" (student: Fin Ring-Hrubesh) supervised by Casey Bryce. I was also a co-I of a UK-focussed project funded by NERC: “Identifying potential tipping points in the benefits derived from the UK's land ecosystems” that has recently finished and was led by Tim Lenton.
ii) Peatland restoration and ecosystem services in the tropics - I am co-I on a GCRF funded project led by Frank Van Veen (KaLi: Multiple Risks associated with drought and peatland fires in Indonesian Borneo. I supervis a PhD project "Understanding the role of fire in Amazonian forests and peatlands", student: Yuwan Wang - funded by QUEX. I am a project partner in a large project understanding effects of land use change and restoration in Indonesia (funded by the Australian Research Council, with Prof Moss). I recently supervised a M Res student (Kennedy Lewis) with Tim Hill working on impacts of oil palm plantations on the biomass stored in Malaysian peatlands.
- 2020 European Research Council
TroPeaCC: Tropical Peatlands and the Carbon Cycle. Tropical peatlands are the most carbon-dense ecosystems in the world and they store the equivalent of ~10 years of global anthropogenic CO2 emissions. Despite their importance, crucial questions remain about carbon cycling in tropical peatlands and improving understanding is critical as they are at high risk from climate change and drainage for oil palm cultivation. TroPeaCC will provide a step-change gain in our understanding of tropical peatland functioning and in projecting their response to climate change. PI Gallego-Sala will use her unique background that bridges peatland modelling and observations to deliver a novel interdisciplinary approach to tackle four outstanding questions about tropical peatlands: Q1: What controls the geographical distribution of peatlands in the tropics? TASK1: To assess the tropical peatland extent using a combination of models Q2: How large is the tropical peatland CO2 sink and what are its main climatic drivers? TASK2: To characterize the drivers of carbon accumulation rates in tropical peatlands using the palaeo-archive. Q3: How large is the methane flux in tropical peatlands? What are the main controls at the intercontinental scale? TASK3: To determine the main controls on methane fluxes in tropical peatlands, using eddy covariance, chamber-based gas flux measurements, and ground penetrating radar. Q4: What is the overall carbon balance of tropical peatlands and how will this change in the future? TASK4: To forecast future changes of the extent of tropical peatlands, of the carbon sink and of methane emissions, using the results of Tasks 1-3 to parameterise and evaluate a global dynamic vegetation model that includes tropical peatlands for the first time. The interdisciplinary approach will lead to a comprehensive understanding of the role of tropical peatlands in the global carbon cycle, allowing their inclusion in earth system models, and informing management decisions to optimise provision of multiple ecosystem services.
- 2020 Global Challenges Research Fund
Kali: Multiple risks associated with drought and peatland fires in Indonesian Borneo (GCRF). A multidisciplinary approach to find ways of mitigating the impacts associated with drought and fires in Indonesia.
- 2019 NERC
ICAAP: Increased Carbon Accumulation in Arctic Peatlands. The over-arching aim of the project is to test the hypothesis that changes in the Arctic peatland C pool will help mitigate future warming, taking account of both changes in accumulation rates and changes in the extent of peatlands.
- 2019 Malaysian Oil Palm Board
Ecosystem Carbon and Nitrogen Dynamics of Tropical Peatland (EDANDOTP). Investigating the impacts of Oil Palm Plantations on tropical peatlands of peninsural Malaysia.
- 2016 NERC
Identifying potential tipping points in the benefits derived from the UK's land ecosystems NERC Valuing Nature Programme - Tipping points
- 2015 South West Water
Mires Project: Understanding the impact of moorland restoration on water quantity, quality and gas fluxes. Phase II
- 2015 EU Marie Curie Training Grant
EU2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Research Fellowship - Anne Quillet. PEATMOD: PEATland modelling for global carbon cycle and climate models PI with Angela Gallego-Sala. €195,455
- 2010 NERC Std Grant
Millipeat - Peatlands and the Global Carbon Cycle during the Past Millennium: a Global assessment using observations and models
Publications by category
Publications by year
External Engagement and Impact
Co-Leader of the PAGES C-PEAT working group
Member of the Expert Panel [W&T8] for the Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO).
International recognition, such as international research collaborations, visiting research posts in overseas institutions, involvement at senior levels in international research associations, acting as referee for national and international research councils.
I am the Programme Director for our Study Abroad and European Study Programmes.
Supervision / Group
- Katherine Crichton is a postodoctoral fellow in "ICAAP: Increased Accumulation in Arctic Peatlands" working on the remote sensing and modelling aspects of the project.
- Jerome Blewett graduated from the University of Manchester in 2017 with an MSci in Earth Sciences. He characterised the macromolecular and lipid biomarker composition of permafrost organic matter from North-East Siberia. Jerome started a PhD in the Organic Geochemistry Unit at the University of Bristol in 2017. This combined genomic and lipidomic project is funded by NERC, and is supervised by Prof Pancost, Dr Naafs, Prof Alexandre Anesio and Dr Angela Gallego-Sala.
- Alex Channon will be studying a M by Res entitled: "Identifying ecohydrological conditions driving lateral spread in Arctic peatlands"
- Anne Eberle has won a GW4+ scholarship to do a PhD entitled: "How do redox and temperature fluctuations influence mineral protection of organic matter during permafrost thaw?". She is based in Bristol, main supervisor is Casey Bryce.
- Teemu Juselius is studying a PhD on peatland dynamics at high latitudes under the supervision of Prof. Minna Valiranta
- Fin Ring-Hrubesh is studying towards a PhD, and his project is entitled: "Assessing the impact of Black Mountains peatland restoration on freshwater ecosystems". His main supervisor is Casey Bryce, at University of Bristol
- Paul Tansley is studying a PhD on "Sphagnum re-introduction in restored peatlands" as part of the wider Mires project.
- Yuwan Wang is studing a PhD entitled: "Forests, peat, and past fires: understanding the drivers of past fire in Amazonian forests"
- Alex Whittle was a Master by Research student working on Late Quaternary changes in the Westerly Winds in Marion Island. He is now finishing a PhD (intake: September 2016) on Late Quaternary changes in the Westerly Winds over the Southern Ocean. NERC Case studentship with the British Antarctic Survey. Co-supervisors: Dan Charman, UoE, and Dominic Hodgson, BAS.
- Rowan Williams will be studying towards a M by Res entitled: "Comparing vegetation distributions in South American tropical peatlands"
- Alex Channon is working as a graduate research technician for ICAAP: Increased Carbon Accumulation in Arctic Peatlands.
- Pia Benaud worked on the "Mires Project" on methane emissions monitoring from restored peatlands.
- Jamie Charlton worked as an intern on a project modelling the extent of tropical montane peatlands. CLES Funded. Co-supervisor Lauren Parry - University of Glasgow.
- Gemma Dooling Associate Research Fellow working on methane and carbon dioxide monitoring in restored peatlands of Dartmoor and Exmoor. This is part of the Mires Extension project funded by South West Water.
- Naomi Gatis Associate Research Fellow working on methane and carbon dioxide monitoring in restored peatlands of Dartmoor and Exmoor. This is part of the Mires Extension project funded by South West Water.
- Katie Jamson was working on a project entitled: "Forests, peat, and fires: understanding the drivers of past fire in Amazonian forests." She has now completed a MSc at the University of Bristol, and will soon be moving to Calgary to start a PhD.
- Kennedy Lewis finished a Masters by Research at the University of Exeter focusing on "L-band radar as a tool to Monitor changes in Above Ground Biomass following Oil Palm plantation expansion in tropical peatland forests".She is now working on a PhD on the Braz
- Stacey New completed a MSc thesis entitled: Holocene fire history in peatlands: can evidence of peat burning be found in the palaeo-archive?, and is now working towards a PhD under the joint supervision of Claire Belcher and Ted Feldspauch.
- Lisa Orme was a Research Technician working on the NERC funded millipeat project. Her main responsibilities: 210Pb dating, building age depth models, database. She progressed onto a lectureship in Maynooth, Ireland.
- Anne Quillet won a Marie SkŁodowska-Curie Fellowship entitled PEATland modelling for global carbon cycle and climate models.She is now a postdoctoral fellow at Reading University.
- Paul Ritchie worked on a NERC funded project "Tipping points in UK ecosystem services" led by Tim Lenton. He is now moved to a new position as a postdoc in Maths at Exeter.
- Hui Zhang studied a PhD entitled "Long-term high latitude peatland and carbon dynamics". Based at University of Helsinki. Main supervisor: Minna Valiranta, UoH. Co-supervisor: Matt Amesbury, UoE.Hui is now a postdoc at the University of Helinski.