Research at SRI has catalysed action across a wide range of policy, science and practice activities aimed at restoring and conserving peatlands. It has underpinned the development of a government-affiliated body (IUCN UK PP) committed to ensuring effective conservation and restoration of peatlands, and helped shape carbon-management initiatives and policies at national and inter-governmental level, prompting Ministerial commitments and substantial funding for UK peatlands.
It has also supported inter-governmental consensus over the sustainable management of peatlands and their carbon stores, and influenced legal decisions about wind farm development on peat. Furthermore, it has enhanced public understanding of important environmental issues relating to peatlands and their ecosystem services, particularly in relation to greenhouse-gas emissions and water management.
For almost 25 years Richard Lindsay, who joined UEL as a Principal Lecturer in 1997, was the scientific specialist peatland advisor to the statutory wildlife agencies. In that role, he conducted surveys and assessments of peatlands throughout Britain and abroad.
For 16 years, he was also Chair of the International Mire Conservation Group (IMCG) - the global network of peatland scientific advisors. Between 2008 and 2009 Lindsay was commissioned by RSPB Scotland to conduct a comprehensive review of the literature on peatbogs and carbon to inform policy development in oceanic peat bog conservation and restoration in the context of climate change.
The review, which was supported by funding from Scottish Natural Heritage, Countryside Council for Wales, Natural England and the Forestry Commission, explored the seemingly contradictory scientific evidence relating to peatland carbon flux and management. To the reviewed literature, Lindsay added ecological information and understanding based on his own experience; he also conducted aerial-photo interpretation and field surveys to clarify key issues.
In many cases, Lindsay found that a misunderstanding by original authors of the ecological condition of the site under investigation had led to incorrect interpretations of results, and hence to the apparent contradictions in the existing literature. His final report, released in June 2010, highlighted the major climate-change benefits of work to protect and restore peatbogs in the UK .
Follow-on research funding was provided by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) UK Peatland Programme to support further and more detailed investigation by Lindsay of topics such as drainage effects, burning impacts and ecosystem services.
As part of this commissioned research, Lindsay assessed material presented to the IUCN's 2011 Commission of Inquiry into Peatlands, and co-authored the final IUCN Report on that Commission . In June 2012, he was commissioned to take part in Natural England's Upland Evidence Review, which addressed managed burning, one of the most widely-practiced forms of land use in the English uplands .
In 2012 Lindsay was invited to assist in the development of a Defra-sponsored Peatland Code, designed to develop funding streams for peatland restoration financed through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) mechanisms. Lindsay was a co-author of the Code, which was launched by the Environment Minister in September 2013 .
In 2004 Lindsay and Dr Olivia Bragg (University of Dundee) were commissioned by Derrybrien Residents' Co-operative (a local community), to undertake an assessment of, and produce a report about, a major bog slide associated with wind farm construction at Derrybrien, Co. Galway. This report considered the probable causes of the slope failure and the consequences (both potential and actual) of the bog slide, including its impacts on carbon stores. On the basis of this work, Lindsay was commissioned to undertake a number of subsequent surveys in 2008-9 and submit several Expert Witness Reports to the High Court in Galway in support of compensation claims being made by the local residents .
This led to Lindsay being commissioned to analyse, firstly, a large wind farm proposal for the Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, and, secondly, suspected illegal moorland track construction in the north of England. These both involved survey, analysis and critical review of the official evidence. The final report for the RSPB , co-authored with Jamie Freeman (UEL), found that Lewis Wind Power Ltd had substantially underestimated the area of the carbon-rich peatland that could be affected, and that a wind farm could have a major impact on the internationally important peatland site as well as on the wider environment of the island.
Lindsay's Expert Witness evidence for Natural England made clear that track construction had caused significant harm to the protected peatland habitat.