Lab

Thomas Wagner's Lab

Featured research (2)

The hydrological impact of many expensive investments on watershed interventions remains unquantified due to lack of time series data. In this study, remote sensing imagery is utilized to quantify and detect vegetation cover change in Magera micro-watershed, Ethiopia, where sustainable land management interventions have been implemented. Normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) values were retrieved for the period 2010 to 2019, which encompasses before, during and after the interventions. Mann-Kendal trend test was used to detect temporal trends in the monthly NDVI values. In addition, multiple change-point analyses were carried out using Pettitt’s, Buishand’s and Standard Normal Homogeneity (SNH) tests to detect any abrupt changes due to the watershed interventions. The possible influence of rainfall on changes in vegetation cover was investigated. A significant increasing trend (from 1.5% to 33%) was detected for dense vegetation at the expense of a significant reduction in bare land from 40.9% to 0.6% over the analysis period. An abrupt change in vegetation cover was detected in 2015 in response to the interventions. A weak and decreasing correlation was obtained between monthly rainfall magnitude and NDVI values, which indicates that the increase in vegetation cover is not from rainfall influences. The study shows that the sustainable land management has an overall positive impact on the study area. The findings of this research support the applicability of remote sensing approaches to provide useful information on the impacts of watershed intervention investments.
Connecting tropical rainforests to larger rivers, tropical headwaters export large quantities of carbon and nutrients as dissolved organic matter (DOM), and are thus a key component of the global carbon cycle. This DOM transport is not passive, however; sunlight and microbial activity alter DOM concentrations and compositions, affecting riverine greenhouse gas emissions and downstream ecosystems. The effects of sunlight and microbial turnover/activity on DOM concentrations and compositions in tropical headwaters are currently poorly understood, but novel Size Exclusion Chromatography (SEC) techniques coupled to suitable detectors can for the first time quantify their influences. Here, we present in-situ incubation experiments from from headwaters of the Essequibo River, in the Iwokrama Rainforest, Guyana, where sunlight oxidised up to 9% of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) over 12 hours, at higher rates than in larger tropical rivers. DOM transformations occurred in both photo-sensitive and supposedly photo-resistant pools. Microbial activity had varying, less clear influences on DOC concentrations over the same time span; compositionally, this appeared to extend beyond known bio-labile components. Biopolymers were particularly reactive to both processes. We show sunlight has the greater potential to mineralise headwater DOM and thus potentially influence degassing. Our approach provides a future template to constrain DOM transformations along river networks, identify biogeochemical activity hotspots, and improve greenhouse gas emissions estimations under changing environmental conditions.

Lab head

Thomas Wagner
Department
  • The Lyell Centre

Members (5)

Geoff Parkin
  • Newcastle University
Sara Trojahn
  • James Hutton Institute
Melanie Mertesdorf
  • Heriot-Watt University
Wegayehu Asfaw
  • Arba Minch University
Aklilu Assefa
  • Addis Ababa University