Skip to main content

Refine your search

Lumi peittää talvista havupuun oksaa.

Doctoral defence of Iñaki Urzainki, MSc, 8.12.2023: Process-based ecosystem models to support management of drained peatland forests

The doctoral dissertation in the field of Peatland hydrology and restoration will be examined at the Faculty of Science, Forestry and Technology, Joensuu Campus.

What is the topic of your doctoral research? Why is it important to study the topic?

Peatlands are one of the most important long-term carbon storages on the planet. Worldwide, peatlands store twice as much carbon as the tropical rainforest biomass does, and almost as much as the total carbon in the atmosphere. Humans have been using peat for a very long time, and continue to do so. 

However, as it is the case in other ecosystems, the same mechanisms that make bioproduction economically valuable have severe environmental consequences. Peatland drainage, one of the main ways to transform peatlands into economically productive areas, enables the growth of dryland crops that could not otherwise tolerate the prolonged wet conditions of pristine peatlands. However, multiple studies have reported a long list of negative impacts associated with it, including increases in carbon dioxide emissions, the rate of peat subsidence, fire risk, nutrient release and export to water courses.

What are the key findings or observations of your doctoral research?

In this work I developed process-based models that allow us to study the impact of human practices in peatland ecology and hydrology. With these tools, the relevant stakeholders can make better decisions for peatland management. Specifically, my work suggests that previous studies might be overestimating the benefits of canal-blocking, one of the most common practices to restore the detrimental effect of drainage in tropical peatlands. I also present an optimization framework to choose the locations of the canal blocks so that they maximize the peat rewetting potential. Finally, I present a more complete peatland ecosystem model that enables a precise study of growth conditions for peatland forests, and how to manage them.

What are the key research methods and materials used in your doctoral research?

I developed process-based computational simulation models. Those models are compared in various ways to existing datasets. When possible, extrapolations to other conditions are made, which allows us to study other scenarios, be it environmental (such as climate change) or human-created (such as different management practices), without needing to experimentally recreate them.

The doctoral dissertation of Iñaki Urzainki, MSc, entitled Process-based ecosystem models to support management of drained peatland forests will be examined at the Faculty of Science, Forestry and Technology, Joensuu Campus. The opponent will be Professor Harri Koivusalo, Aalto University,  and the custos will be Professor Annamari Laurén, University of Eastern Finland. Language of the public defence is English.