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Dr Matthew Saunders

Dr Matthew Saunders
Department of Botany,
School of Natural Sciences,
Trinity College Dublin,
Dublin2, Ireland  
Tel: +353 1 8964870


ResearchGate ID:


My research interests lie in the area of environmental physiology, with particular emphasis on how plants respond to changes in their physical, chemical and biological environments and how this information can be used to assess the resilience and adaptive capacity of terrestrial ecosystems to global environmental change. I am particularly interested in the influence of plant species diversity, developmental stage, climatic variability and land management on biogeochemical cycling within terrestrial ecosystems. I utilise an integrated experimental and model-based approach to assess the physiological and environmental processes that regulate plant productivity, carbon sequestration, greenhouse gas dynamics, plant-water relations and energy budgets at the leaf, whole plant and ecosystem scale. My recent work has focussed on the impacts of land use change, habitat restoration and extreme climatic events on carbon, water and nutrient dynamics in natural and agricultural ecosystems in both temperate and tropical climates.

Current Research

My current research focuses on the provision of key ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration, climate change mitigation and hydrological regulation from pristine, degraded and restored peatland sites across Ireland and the UK. I am also interested in the sustainable management of tropical wetlands, and in particular Cyperus papyrus L. wetlands, which represent some of the most productive ecosystems on Earth. I also collaborate with the UCD Earth Institute, Plant Ecophysiology and Forestry research groups to measure the exchange of trace gases between the biosphere and atmosphere at various long-term experimental forest research plots.

Current Research Projects

Sponsor: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Project Title: Soil Organic carbon and Land Use Mapping (SOLUM)
Duration: 1st March 2017 to 29th February 2020

Sponsor: EU Horizon 2020 (H2020)
Project Title: Supporting EU-African Cooperation on Research Infrastructures for Food Security and Greenhouse Gas Observations (SEACRIFOG)
Duration: 1st March 2017 to 29th February 2020

Sponsor: Department of Agriculture Fisheries and the Marine (DAFM)
Project Title: Manipulation and Integration of Nitrogen Emissions (MINE)
Duration: 1st December 2016 to 31st May 2021

Sponsor: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Project Title: Analysis of grasslands and associated management practices and potential impact on GHG emissions and removals.

Sponsor: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Project Title: peAtland properties inflUencing greenhouse Gas Emissions and Removals (AUGER)
Project Website:
Duration: 1st April 2016 to 21st March 2019


Current research vacancies



I coordinate the following modules:

DP7001/POL41210: Sustainable Land Use and Agriculture. Masters in Developmental Practice

BO4108: Plant-Environment Interactions
BO4106: Seminars Tutorials and Workshops
ZO4060: Research Comprehension
BO3123: Soil Science
BO3106: Seminars Tutorials and Workshops

I contribute to the following modules:

BO3108: Plants and the Irish Environment
BO3121: Field Skills in Plant and Environmental Science
FB4000: Research Project Supervision


Selected Publications

Book Chapters:

S. Loiselle., A. Cozar., A.van Dam., F.Kansiime., P.Kelderman., M.Saunders., S.Simonit. (2006) 'Tools for Wetland Ecosystem Resource Management in East Africa: Focus on the Lake Victoria Papyrus wetlands' In: Verhoeven, J., Beltman, B., Bobbink, R., Whigham, D (eds). Wetlands and Natural Resource Management. Berlin: Springer. 190, 97-121.

Peer reviewed journals:

Nemoto, R., Klumpp, K., Coleman, K., Dondini, M., Goulding, K., Hastings, A., Jones, MB., Leifield, J., Osborne, B., Saunders, M., Scott, T., Teh, YA., Smith, P. (2017). Soil organic carbon (SOC) equilibrium and model initialisation methods: an application to the Rothamsted carbon (RothC) model. Environmental Modeling and Assessment. 22, 215-229.

Jones, MB., Kansiime, F., Saunders, MJ. (2016). The potential use of papyrus (Cyperus papyrus L.) wetlands as a source of biomass energy for sub-Saharan Africa. Global Change Biology. 1-8.

Cerutti, PO., Sola, P., Chenevoy, A., Liyama, M., Yila, J., Zhou, W., Djoudi, H., Atyi, RA., Gautier, D., Gumbo, D., Kuehl, Y., Levang, P., Martius, C., Matthews, R., Nasi, R., Neufeldt, H., Njenga, M., Petrokofsky, G., Saunders, M., Sheperd, G., Sonwa, D., Sundberg, C., van Noordwijk, M. (2015). The socioeconomic and environmental impacts of wood energy chains in Sub-Saharan Africa: a systematic map protocol. Environmental Evidence. 4:12.

Benanti, G., Saunders, M., Tobin, B., Hawkins. M., Osborne, B. (2014). Contrasting impacts of afforestation on nitrous oxide and methane emissions. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology. 198-199, 82-93.

Saunders, M.,
Tobin, B., Sweeney, C., Gioria, M., Benanti, G., Cacciotti, E., Osborne, B. (2014). Impacts of exceptional and extreme inter-annual climatic events on the net ecosystem carbon dioxide exchange of a Sitka spruce forest. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology. 184, 147-157.

Saunders M,
Kansiime, F, Jones, MB. (2014). Reviewing the carbon cycle dynamics and carbon sequestration potential of Cyperus papyrus L. wetlands in tropical Africa. Wetlands Ecology and Management. 22, 143-155.

Artz, RRE., Chapman, SJ., Saunders, M., Evans, CD., Matthews, RB. (2013). Comment on “Soil CO2, CH4 and N2O fluxes from an afforested lowland raised peat bog in Scotland: implications for drainage and restoration” by Yamulki et al. (2013). Biogeosciences. 10, 7623-7630. DOI:10.5194/bg-10-7623-2013.

Abdalla, M., Saunders, M., Hastings, A., Williams, M., Smith, P., Osborne, B., Jones, M. (2013). Simulating the impacts of land use in Northwest Europe on Net Ecosystem Exchange (NEE): The role of arable ecosystems, grasslands and forest plantations in climate change mitigation. Science of the Total Environment. 465, 325-336.

Peichl, M., Sonnentag, O., Wohlfahrt, G., Baldocchi, D., Flanagan, L., Kiely, G., Galvagno, M., Gianelle, D., Marcolla, B., Pio, C., Migliavacca, M., Jones, M., Saunders, M. (2013). Convergence of potential net ecosystem production among contrasting C3 grasslands. Ecology Letters. 16, 502-512.

Stoy, PC.,  Mauder, M.,  Foken, T., Marcolla, B., Boegh, E., Ibrom, A., Arain, MA., Arneth, A., Aurela, M., Bernhofer, C., Cescatti, A., Dellwik, E., Duce, P., Gianelle, D., van Gorsel, E., Kiely, G., Knohl, A.,  Margolis, H., McCaughey, J., Merbold, L., Montagnani, L., Papale, D., Reichstein, M., Saunders, M., Serrano-Ortiz, P., Sottocornola, M., Spano, D., Vaccari, F., Varlagin, A. (2013). A data-driven analysis of energy balance closure across FLUXNET research sites: The role of landscape scale heterogeneity. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology. 171-172, 137-152.

Nicolau, M., Saunders, M., O’Neill, M., Osborne, B., Brabazon, A. (2012). Evolving interpolation models of net ecosystem CO2 exchange using grammatical evolution. Genetic Programming (Lecture Notes in Computer Science).7244, 134-145.

Saunders, M
., Tobin, B., Black, K., Nieuwenhuis, M., Osborne, B. (2012). Thinning effects on the net ecosystem carbon exchange of a Sitka spruce forest are temperature-dependent. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology. 157, 1-10.

Saunders, M
., Kansiime, F., Jones, MB. (2012). Agricultural encroachment: implications for carbon sequestration in tropical African wetlands. Global Change Biology. 18, 1312-1321.

Olajuyigbe, S, Tobin, B, Saunders, M, Nieuwenhuis, M. (2012). Forest thinning and soil respiration in a Sitka spruce forest in Ireland. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology. 157, 86-95.

Policy Papers:

Waldron, S., Yeluripati, J., Saunders, M., Conniff, A., Chapman, S., Miller, D., Matthews, R., Smith, J., Govan, S. (2015). The peatland carbon calculator. Its use and future potential. ClimateXChange, Scotland.

Saunders, M., Perks, M., Slee, B., Ray, D., Matthews, R. (2014). Can silvo-pastoral systems contribute to Scotland’s emission reduction targets? Policy briefing to the Scottish Government. CimateXChange, Scotland.

Matthews, R., Smith, P., Smith, J., Ray, D., Perks, M., Slee, B., Saunders, M. (2014). The role of woodlands in meeting Scotland’s greenhouse gas emission targets. In: Iason, G (Ed). Biodiversity in Woodland Ecosystems, The James Hutton Institute, Craigiebuckler, Aberdeen 24pp.

Artz, R., Saunders, M., Yeluripati, J., Potts, J., Elston, D., Chapman, S. (2014). An assessment of the proposed IPCC 2013 supplement to the 2006 guidelines: wetlands for the use of GHG accounting in Scottish peatlands. Response to Scottish Government Calldown Request.

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Last updated 9 January 2018