The Broads Authority supports students to become ‘citizen scientists’

canape logo

The Broads Authority has just launched its citizen science programme which is part of the Broads Authority’s role as lead partner in the European funded project CANAPE (Creating A New Approach to Peatland Ecosystems).

The citizen science programme enables science students and the public to go out into the field, collect data and learn about the role peat has played and continues to play in relation to the geology and ecology of the Broads wetlands. Even more importantly with global warming as one of today’s biggest concerns this approach will raise awareness of peats ability to act as a major carbon sink and therefore the need to conserve rather than drain these peat-based wetlands.

Peat coring

CANAPE’s public engagement will give people living in and around the Broads National Park the opportunity to understand the importance of Britain’s largest wetland and gather data that will be used to inform its ongoing management. Participants have been conducting peat surveys – driving a modified drill (corer) into the marsh to collect soil samples “cores” from the surface down to a point the corer can no longer pass through. In some places this can be more than 10m down. As the cores are brought up to the surface, data relating to soil or peat type, depth and decomposition level is recorded. This information is being used by the Broads Authority to develop a data set of peat and clay depths beneath the marshes.

The cores provide a fascinating timeline of climatic and ecological history, exposing peat and clay layers laid down during two major marine inundations 2000 and 6000 years ago. Peat is formed of semi decomposed vegetation, which means it’s possible to find chunks of alder and willow that haven’t seen the light of day for thousands of years.

stood in the marshes

Students from Hobart High School, Loddon and East Norfolk Six Form College, Gorleston have been taking a series of peat cores on Irstead, Burgh Common and Barton Turf. The information is being used to plan the digging of new turf ponds and to investigate factors affecting the distribution of fen orchids.

Senior Ecologist for the Broads Authority, Andrea Kelly, said of the project:

“Caring for our Peatland Ecosystems correctly can be the difference between enormous carbon release or storage. Good peat management is about keeping the peat wet and undrained. The Broads stores the equivalent amount of carbon to that emitted by one of the world’s largest power stations. The work we’re doing with students is vital because the more we understand about the composition of the earth the more that we can do to protect it.”  

To learn more about the work of the students and to have the chance to get involved yourself, take part in the “Peat Discovery Zone” at How Hill National Nature Reserve on 31 July and 2, 6 and 8 July.

Tuesday 9 April 2019