Master of Sciences Wolff Franziska

92000 €

Sphagnum Mosses as Ecosystem Engineers in transitional Mires: A Drone-based Analysis

Tieteellinen tutkimus / siihen pohjautuva työ | Kolmivuotinen

The state of peatlands, or mires, concerns us all, as they cover nearly 30 percent of Finland’s land area and provide several ecosystem services to humankind. The role and usage of peatlands are highly debated topics in today’s society. Although peatlands appear to be in a state of equilibrium, most of them have been exposed to severe disturbances by either land use or climate change, with natural fluctuations occurring as well. The resulting ecosystem shifts or transitions among peatland types can lead to significant carbon dioxide release and a decline of biodiversity. Therefore, it is crucial to recognize transitions and changes in order to adapt land use management and restoration measures. My PhD project is highly interdisciplinary, involving a broad team and bridging the fields of geography, ecology and remote sensing. It seeks to detect transitions of peatland ecosystems with help of archived aerial images and a variety of modern, high-resolution drone imagery complimented by field data. My hypothesis is that transitions can be detected on drone images by identifying vegetation patterns and hydrological features. The key element in my research are Sphagnum mosses, which are ecosystem engineers distributed along the hummock-hollow gradient. Ergo, Sphagnum mosses can be used as an indicator for change detection. My PhD project further aims to develop reliable methods for detailed peatland vegetation classification and mapping on species level, and lastly to model on a multidimensional level vegetation distribution and hydrological flow networks. Detecting transitions can show dynamic processes within mires and point out important carbon sinks, thus increasing our understanding of mires and the ecological interactions therein. The developed methods will be of high importance in land use planning and management, as well as for peatland restoration and evaluating ecosystem services. The research outputs will be broadly transferable - nationally and globally.