“Current forest carbon fixation fuels stream CO2 emissions” - New collaborative paper using NERC Radiocarbon Facility (East Kilbride) radiocarbon analyses.

A new study published in Nature Communications found that stream carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are strongly driven by recent plant fixation of carbon. This is important because streams release vast quantities of this major greenhouse gas to the atmosphere.  Changes in stream CO2 emissions are therefore likely to be highly sensitive to the response of plants to climate change.

The study is an outcome of a very successful collaboration between Swedish and UK researchers. The NERC RCF (East Kilbride) contributions centred on the provision of key radiocarbon measurements on dissolved organic carbon and aquatic CO2 (the latter collected using the NERC RCF’s unique aquatic CO2 sampling techniques).

Campeau, A., K. Bishop, N. Amvrosiadi, M. F. Billett, M. H. Garnett, H. Laudon, M. G. Öquist, and M. B. Wallin. "Current Forest Carbon Fixation Fuels Stream CO2 Emissions." Nature Communications 10, no. 1 (2019/04/23 2019): 1876. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-09922-3.

To view the paper:  https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-09922-3

 Updated 20th May, 2019

PhD Studentships Available!

NRCF staff are currently named as primary and co-supervisors on a many exciting projects that currently available through NERC’s Doctoral Training Partnerships Scheme. These cover a wide range of topics, from modern climate change to palaeoenvironmental reconstruction in Antarctica, the Arctic, Asia, Europe and Africa. See the links below, and feel free to contact us for more information.    

Creating “Climate-smart” soils to optimize carbon sequestration through land management

‌Supervisors: Jens-Arne Subke (University of Stirling) Mark Garnett, (NRCF, SUERC), Mike Perks, (Forest Research)

Full project description at link below:



Carbon dioxide release from a major Arctic River: The Age of the Mackenzie River’s breath (CASE Partner project)

The Mackenzie River, Canada

The Mackenzie River, Canada, viewed from the Dempster Highway, June 2017 (©RG Hilton).

Supervisors: Prof. Robert Hilton, (Durham University), Dr. Mark Garnett, (NRCF, SUERC), Prof. Richard Hardy, (Durham University), Dr. Philippa Ascough, (NRCF, SUERC)

Full project description at link: http://www.iapetus.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/IAP2-18-51_Durham_Hilton.pdf


High resolution palaeoenvironmental reconstruction from Lake Suigetsu, Japan. SUIGETSU

Lake Suigetsu, central Japan: ‘SG14’ drilling rig a speck in the distance. 

(Photo: R.A. StafLake Suigetsu, central Japan: ‘SG14’ drilling rig a speck in the distance. (Photo: R.A. Staff.).

Supervisors: Richard Staff (SUERC), Melanie Leng (BGS), Emma Pearson (Newcastle)

Full project description at link: http://www.iapetus.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/IAP2-18-54_Glasgow_Staff.pdf


Age, origin, and dynamics of carbon in the central Congo peatlands: radiocarbon dating plant leaf waxes to build a novel 10,000 year record of change

Campsite in peat swamp forest, Republic of Congo.

Supervisors: Pauline Gulliver, (NRCF, SUERC), Ian Lawson, (University of St Andrews) Jaime Toney, (University of Glasgow) Luz Maria Cisneros-Dozal, (NRCF, SUERC)

Full project description at link below:



Field testing of numerical models of landscape evolution using the fluvial archive: case study in the Rio Bergantes, Spain.

Supervisors: Mikael Attal (University of Edinburgh), Simon Mudd (University of Edinburgh), Philippa Ascough (NRCF, SUERC), Richard Staff (SUERC)

Full project description at link below:

Numerical models of landscape evolution project description


Building a new understanding of immigration, diet, and health during the early medieval period: Assessing the maternal and infant health of Anglo-Saxon immigrants (CASE Partner project)

Oakington, BURIAL

 A triple burial of an adult, adolescent and child at Oakington.

Supervisors: Prof. Janet Montgomery, (Durham University), Dr Philippa Ascough, NRCF, SUERC), Dr. Elizabeth Popescu, (Oxford Archaeology East), Dr Rebecca Gowland, (Durham University), Dr. Darren Gröcke, (Durham University)

Full project description at link below:



Millennial-scale surface and intermediate/deepwater circulation in the western Indian Ocean

Supervisors: Simon Jung (University of Edinburgh), Melanie Leng (BGS Nottingham), Steven Moreton (NRCF, SUERC), Dick Kroon (University of Edinburgh)

Full project description at link below:



Reconstructing Antarctic ice sheet history and palaeoceanography from novel use of avian stomach oil deposits (‘mumiyo’)

 Snow petrel

Snow petrel on nest. Fresh mumiyo stains (orange) visible on snow.

Supervisors: Dr Erin McClymont, (Durham University), Prof Dominic Hodgson, (British Antarctic Survey), Prof Mike Bentley, (Durham University), Dr Philippa Ascough, (NRCF, SUERC)

Full project description at link: http://www.iapetus.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/IAP2-18-21_Durham_McClymont1.pdf


 Updated 11th December, 2018

When ancient meets modern – effect of plant-derived carbon on anaerobic decomposition in arctic permafrost soils (acronym PANDA)

Uni Jyväskylä


Dr. Maija Marushchak from the University of Jyväskylä, Finland, received post-doc funding for studying how fresh, plant-derived C affects anaerobic decomposition of soil organic matter and associated CO2 and CH4 production in arctic soils. 

The three-year project titled ‘When ancient meets modern – effect of plant-derived carbon on anaerobic decomposition in arctic permafrost soils (acronym PANDA)’, funded by the Academy of Finland, has started in the beginning of this month and will be conducted in collaboration with Dr. Mark Garnett from NERC Radiocarbon Facility.

Arctic warming enhances mobilization of the vast carbon (C) pool stored in permanently frozen ground, but the magnitude of this permafrost C feedback to climate change remains poorly constrained. This project aims at bringing more light into decomposition processes in wet, anaerobic soils in conditions, where the vegetation, soil and microbes intimately interact.


Updated 20th September, 2018


A new paper co-authored by Dr Steven Moreton from NRCF

‘Latitudinal limits to the predicted increase of the peatland carbon sink with warming’

A new paper co-authored by Dr Steven Moreton from NRCF 

New research from a team of 70 scientists, led by the University of Exeter and including a significant contribution from the NERC Radiocarbon Facility, East Kilbride, concludes that global warming will cause peatlands to absorb more carbon – but the effect will weaken as warming increases.

Peatlands are a vital “carbon sink”, currently storing more carbon than all the world’s growing vegetation, and the research showed they will store even more carbon in the future than was previously believed.

In environments such as forests, carbon from dead plants decomposes and is released back into the atmosphere. But in peatlands, water slows this process and locks in carbon. Most peatlands are in cold climates and here warmer temperatures will lengthen the growing season for plants – meaning more plant matter falling into peat bogs.  But this initial increase in carbon storage will be offset by reduced storage in tropical peatlands where rising temperatures will speed up decomposition without increasing plant growth.

The NERC Radiocarbon Facility, East Kilbride, made over 230 radiocarbon measurements in support of this project in order to calculate the rate at which peat has accumulated in the past.  The researchers then looked at a range of estimates for future warming of between 1°C and 3.7°C by 2100. The modelled future projections suggest that the present-day global carbon sink in peatlands will increase slightly until about 2100 but will decline thereafter.

The paper, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, is entitled: “Latitudinal limits to the predicted increase of the peatland carbon sink with warming.”

Angela V. Gallego-Sala, Dan J. Charman, Simon Brewer, Susan E. Page, I. Colin Prentice, Pierre Friedlingstein, Steve Moreton…et al. 2018. Nature Climate Changehttps://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-018-0271-1

Gallego-Sala et al 2018 Map

Figure:Projected anomalies (future − historic) of annual carbon accumulation rates for four time periods

Read the full article here:



Updated 19th September, 2018


NRCF News in the News!

The PIMS instrument up and running

The Positive Ion Mass Spectrometry (PIMS) program has continued apace in the SUERC AMS laboratory, assisted by research funding from NERC, and in collaboration with the National Electrostatics Corporation (NEC, USA), and Pantechnik (France).


News of the invention and its implications for science has reached the UK media, following BBC articles online, on TV, and on the radio. Professor Stewart Freeman and Dr. Richard Shanks, together with the Head of the NRCF (Environment, Dr. Philippa Ascough, were interviewed to describe the technology, and what it will mean for UK based research funded by NERC and other bodies.

Coverage reached approximately 7.8 million people, and was picked up by news outlets across the country. Links to the BBC articles are given below.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-44526368 (Online on the BBC website)

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b6yf99#t=1h48m37s (Listen again on BBC Radio)

Updated: 6th July, 2018

Graduation of SUERC PhD student: Dr. Jessica Bownes

Jess Graduation

‌Jessica’s thesis, ‘Reassessing the Scottish Mesolithic-Neolithic Transition: Questions of Diet and Chronology’ was an in-depth study of dietary change and the implications of Marine Radiocarbon Reservoir Effects upon chronology over this crucial phase in Scottish prehistory.

UoG GraduationThis involved producing a huge dataset of stable isotopic measurements of modern analogue and archaeological materials, in order to use Bayesian statistical analysis to produce a fine-detail picture of human diet. Some of these results are already published in the Journal Radiocarbon (Bownes et al., 2017. Radiocarbon 59, 1275-1294), and Jess has also co-authored publications exploring issues such as Marine 14C Reservoir Effects from the Mesolithic to the Medieval.

We congratulate Jess on her achievements and wish her all the best in her future career!  

 Updated: 6th July, 2018


 “Dynamics of Charcoal Alteration in a Tropical Biome: A Biochar-Based Study” A new paper authored by the NRCF Head, Philippa Ascough

Pyrogenic Carbon (PyC) is one of the most stable forms of organic carbon on Earth, and a ‘missing link’ in the carbon cycle. But a new paper in Frontiers in Earth Science has found that in some soils, carbon can be lost from this material over less than 12 months. This information means that PyC forms an important part of our ‘living’ soil environment, and that it’s possible this long-term carbon sink can become a source, depending on its environment.

Read the full OPEN ACCESS article here: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/feart.2018.00061/full?&utm_source=Email_to_authors_&utm_medium=Email&utm_content=T1_11.5e1_author&utm_campaign=Email_publication&field=&journalName=Frontiers_in_Earth_Science&id=301910

Ascough P.L, Bird M.I, Meredith W, Snape C, Tilston E, Apperley D, Bernabé A, Shen L. 2018. Dynamics of Charcoal Alteration in a Tropical Biome: A Biochar-Based Study. Frontiers in Earth Science.

 3-D image of charcoal

3-D image of charcoal (PyC) exposed to the environment showing cracking

 Updated: 4th June, 2018


“Fungi respire millennium-old carbon from Antarctic soil”  -  New paper using NERC Radiocarbon Facility (East Kilbride) molecular sieve sampling methods.

A new study published in Nature Scientific Reports found that discrete taxa of fungi respire ancient carbon locked away in Antarctic soil. The study used the unique molecular sieve carbon dioxide sampling techniques developed at NERC Radiocarbon Facility (East Kilbride), and may represent the first time that carbon dioxide from an individual taxa of fungi has been radiocarbon-dated.

Newsham KK, Garnett MH, Robinson CH, Cox F (2018) Discrete taxa of saprotrophic fungi respire different ages of carbon from Antarctic soils. Scientific Reports 8(1): 7866

To view the British Antarctic Survey Press release: https://www.bas.ac.uk/media-post/fungi-respire-millennium-old-carbon-from-antarctic-soil/

To view the paper:  https://rdcu.be/OzNs

Updated: 30th May, 2018

Grant success!

The NRCF has received notification of a successful Royal Society Grant collaborating with Sunitha Pangala (Open University): ’ The role of lateral and tree transport in methane cycling in pristine and disturbed peatlands’. The work will take place in Indonesia and Brunei, providing exciting opportunities for international fieldwork and collaboration.  The work concerns tropical wetlands, and the role of trees in methane emissions, particularly the impacts of deforestation. Recent research has shown that trees are major conduits for the release of methane from wetlands (to a much greater extent than previously thought – see Pangala et al. 2017. Nature. ‘Large emissions from floodplain trees close the Amazon methane budget').

PIMS arrives at SUERC…a new take on measuring radiocarbon?

Kenny (NEC) and Rich (SUERC), positioning the first PIMS bending magnet (BM1)

Kenny (NEC) and Rich (SUERC), positioning the first PIMS bending magnet (BM1).

The SUERC AMS team have been working hard with NEC and Pantechnik to develop an instrument for Positive Ion Mass Spectrometry (aka PIMS), that can measure radiocarbon, among other cosmogenic isotopes…and the machine has finally arrived from the USA, ready to assemble. 

The end goal is to make an exceptionally simple, compact, efficient system for radiocarbon measurement that requires only gas samples (i.e. of CO2) for measurement, with all the accuracy and precision of traditional graphite, without the need to make solid samples. We are told by the team there’s no accelerator, plus faster and cleaner measurement.

More information on the system can be found at: http://www.pelletron.com/products/positive-ion-mass-spectrometry-pims-systems/

The AMS team are aiming to present results at the Radiocarbon Conference this year in Trondheim, so watch this space! Also, follow @SUERC1 on Twitter to get all the updates as the project progresses.

Publicity for our PhD student

Melissa HyPy

Melissa Nikkhah-Eshghi featured with the HyPy.

Melissa Nikkhah-Eshghi was featured in the March Edition of publicity for Environmental Protection Scotland, describing her PhD project ("Developing a new chemical link between composition, abundance, and sources of atmospheric black carbon in a major urban environment’’). The full news story can be found at http://www.ep-scotland.org.uk/news/newsletter-february-2018/ (‘Melissa Zones in on Black Carbon in Glasgow’).

Melissa is only in the first few months of her NERC PhD and is generating a considerable amount of interest, due to the high profile of air pollution and its health impacts in the news at present. She’s supervised by Philippa Ascough (SUERC), Jaime Toney (GES), and Mat Heal (Edinburgh).