Changes in climate and land-use alter the key processes that are essential the functioning of the habitats in the Highlands. This can impact the ecosystem services
they deliver and bear significant costs to society – in the Highlands and beyond.

Within the Carbon, Water and Climate theme, we aim to :

– Characterise the species and processes behind ecosystem functions
– Understand how species and processes have responded to climate and land-use change in the past
– Improve prediction of how ecosystem functions might respond to future changes, and what it means for society

Our research focuses on terrestrial and freshwater habitats, with a particular emphasis on peatlands.


Peatlands cover a third of Scotland’s land area, more than any country in Western Europe. Caithness and Sutherland is home to the “Flow Coutry”, the largest expanse of blanket bog in the world… right on ERI’s doorstep!

With an estimated 400 MT of carbon stored in the peat, it is also the single largest terrestrial carbon store in the UK. But peatlands are not important only for their disproportionate capacity to store carbon, they also support unique species, some of international biodiversity importance, and they play a central part in water regulation in many upland catchments. They are directly connected to the marine environment by a network of fast flowing rivers, providing an ideal set up to link processes “from source to sink”.

Conserving, protecting and restoring peatland is a global priority that the ERI’s research aims to inform. This is made possible in part by the Flow Country Research Hub, a network of researchers and practitioners coordinated by the ERI.



  • The Forest-to-Bog project (PhD student Paul Gaffney, supervisors: Roxane Andersen and Mark Taggart)
  • The Flow Country peatlands: studying the past to inform the future (MSc student Joss Ratcliffe and TCV apprentice Angela Creevy, supervisor: Roxane Andersen)
  • Dissolved And Volatile Organic Carbon Compounds in Arctic Peatlands: the DAVOCCAP project (Roxane Andersen, Mark Taggart and Paul Gaffney)
  • The pilot Fen (NSERC-CRD, PI: Prof. J.S. Price. Roxane Andersen collaborator. Vinay Datay, MSc. Student and Felix Nwaishi, PhD student)
  • Evaluating peatland management for multiple benefits (PhD student Ainoa Pravia, Roxane Andersen and Kenny Boyd)

The Flow Country Research Hub

The Flow Country Research Hub is a network of researchers and stakeholders interested by peatland research in the Flow Country, the vast expanse of blanket bog spreading across Caithness and Sutherland in the North of Scotland. It was launched during the first Flow Country Research Conference, held in Thurso in October 2012.

The Flow Country Research Hub aims to establish the Flow Country as a UK focal point of peatland science addressing contemporary issues such as climate change, biodiversity, resource management and sustainability.

The ERI acts as a coordinator and produces a quarterly newsletter circulated widely and a twitter account: both are used to promote communication between the different groups involved in the research projects in the Flow Country.

A wide range of peatland research projects are taking place in the Flow Country, most of which are collaborative in nature. This in in line with the long-term aspiration of the network, which are to:
– Provide and maintain infrastructures which promote international collaborations, student placements, visiting researchers and which enable sustainable, world-class research to take place in the Flow Country;
– Improve the integration between scientists, landowners, practitioners, governance bodies and policy makers, to help deliver restoration objectives in Scotland;
– Develop a better platform for the provision of outreach and knowledge exchange activities making research accessible to all