Thomas Parker

Upland Carbon Ecologist
Ecological Sciences
T: +44 (0)344 928 5428 (*)
Thomas (Tom) is an ecologist specialising in the study of carbon cycling in upland and far northern ecosytems. Much of this research centres on roots and the 'rhizosphere'- the volume of soil directly influenced by root activity- and how root and rhizosphere processes control the capacity of an ecosystem to store carbon. Tom's expertise is in understanding ecological processes, how they connect within an ecosystem and how they are influenced by climate and vegetation change. Tom works in the Biodiversity and Ecosystems Group with a focus on the ecosystem responses to land management and green house gas fluxes from peatlands.

Peatland Carbon Loss and Restoration

Eroding blanket bog peatlands are losing large amounts of carbon, both directly as greenhouse gas emissions and as eroded sediment that is later lost to CO2 downstream. I am leading a research programme on the loss of particulate organic carbon (POC) from peatlands and the factors that determine its decomposition. I am also leading research on the impact of peatland restoration on peatland carbon losses

A V-notch weir used to measure water flow rates from the restored peatland at Glensaugh Climate Positive Farm


Planting and natural regeration of trees on organic rich soils 

Tree planting and ‘rewilding’ of the Scottish uplands is high on the environmental agenda, my interest is is how these practices impact belowground processes and thw wider carbon cycle. I use a combination of DNA-based and process-based approaches to understanding soil ecology.


The MOORCO (Moorland Colonisation) Experiment in Aberdeenshire

Plant-soil interactions in a greening Arctic

As the arctic climate warms, tall shrubs are expanding north into the tundra. My research has focussed on understanding how these changes in tundra plant community will impact carbon cycling in the soil. Acrtic soils represent one of the largest global stores of carbon and a major question I aim to answer is how the increasing plant activity in the tundra will affect this soil carbon store. I am a Co-investigator in a NERC-funded project with the Universities of Stirling of Edinburgh with Project Partners at the Swedish Agricultural University on the role of different fungi in the decomposition of soil carbon in the Arctic.


Soil sampling in Northern Sweden, 250km North of the Arctic Circle

Ecophysiology of peatland plant species

My previous work in the tundra of Alaska focused on the ecology and adaptation of arctic plants, in particular Eriophorum vaginatum (tussock cottongrass). The climate in the Arctic is warming faster that anywhere else on earth and his research indicates that arctic plants may struggle to keep up with this change.


The northern edge of the Brooks range in Northern Arctic Alaska- an ecosystem undergoing rapid change.


PhD Students

Naomi Housego – The impacts of colonisation by trees on moorland soil carbon stocks. Co-supervised with Ruth Mitchell (Hutton), Lorna Street (University of Edinburgh) and Elena Vanguelova (Forest Research)



Prior to appointment


Conference posters

  • Baggaley, N.; Roberts, M.; Loades, K.; Parker, T.; Zhang, Z.; Lilly, A.; Rivington, M.; Sharififar, A.; Jabloun, M.; Hallett, P.; Fraser, F. (2023) Assessing the socio-economic impacts of soil degradation on Scotland’s water environment, Catchment Science 2023 Conference, 7-9 November 2023, Wexford
  • Donaldson-Selby, G.; Parker, T.; Coyle, M.; Johnson-Marshall, A.; Toca, L.; Smart, C.; Cash, J.; Artz, R. (2022) Investigating POC fluxes on an eroding upland blanket bog, Cairngorms National Park, Scotland, Poster at the 12th IUCN UK Peatland Programme conference, Aberystwyth, 4th – 6th October 2022
  • Parker, T.; Coyle, M.; Cash, J.; Donaldson-Selby, G.; Johnson-Marshall, A.; Smart, C.; Toca, L.; Artz, R.R.E. (2022) Peatland Carbon and Hydrology Dynamics Across Scotland, The 12th IUCN UK Peatland Programme Conference, 4-6 October 2022, Aberystwyth.
  • Parker, T.; Coyle, M.; Cash, J.; Donaldson-Selby, G.; Johnson-Marshall, A.; Smart, C.; Toca, L.; Artz, R.R.E. (2022) Peatland Carbon and Hydrology Dynamics Across Scotland,