Dr Lewis Peake is a self-employed soil scientist, dividing his time across the following activities: university teaching, private soil survey and agricultural land classification (ALC) work, and research/writing. His BSc (Hons) was in Environmental Sciences, with a focus on soils and land use. Lewis obtained an MSc in Resource Assessment for Development Planning (essentially soil survey and land evaluation for agriculture and forestry), and some years later obtained his PhD at UEA, on the subject of biochar, to enhance soil health and sequester carbon. His training and experience includes agriculture, climatology, ecology, microbiology, geology, geomorphology, environmental impact assessment, archaeology, socioeconomics, statistics, remote sensing, GIS and project management.

Soil science includes both pedology (soil genesis, classification and morphology) and edaphology (the role of soil in ecology and land use), which includes sub-specialisms in soil physics, chemistry, biology or agronomy. Lewis has a broad generalist knowledge of all aspects of soils, rather than one specialism, but his research and professional work has been directed at two topics in particular.  One of these topics is soil degradation and amelioration, e.g. soil organic matter decline and its impact on soil health, soil erosion impacts on productivity (an FAO project with Professor Michael Stocking), the impact of marine flooding on soil biology, and primarily the many roles of biochar. The other topic is soil survey and land evaluation, which provides the practical link between pedology and edaphology, e.g. a land suitability methodology he developed from fieldwork in Trinidad and aimed at facilitating sustainable agriculture and environmental protection.

Lewis has published articles and book chapters on soil science and other subjects over the last 30+ years, has contributed expert reviews (for IPCC, USDA Soil Taxonomy, BBSRC and various journals), and is a full member of the British Society of Soil Science (BSSS).

All Publications

Latawiec, A., Peake, L., Baxter, H., Cornelissen, G., Grotkiewicz, K., Hale, S., Królczyk, J., Kubon, M., Łopatka, A., Medynska-Juraszek, A., Reid, B., Siebielec, G., Sohi, S., Spiak, Z., Strassburg, B.


A reconnaissance-scale GIS-based multicriteria decision analysis to support sustainable biochar use: Poland as a case study,

in Journal of Environmental Engineering and Landscape Management



pp. 208-222

Full Text UEA Repository



Tolhurst, T., Reid, B., Andrews, J., Giannopoulos, G., Grant, A., Lorenzoni, I., Peake, L., Goulden, M., Waters, J., Donaldson, C., Bremner, J., Dolphin, T., Garcia, C., Kennedy, K.


The December 2013 North Sea storm caused the biggest UK storm surge for 60 years,

(Other contribution)


Giannopoulos, G., Peake, L., Reid, B., Andrews, J., Grant, A., Lorenzoni, I., Goulden, M., Waters, J., Dolphin, T., Bremner, J., Tolhurst, T.


Environmental and social impacts of the 2013 Storm Surge on the North Norfolk coast,



Peake, L. R., Reid, B. J., Tang, X.


Quantifying the influence of biochar on the physical and hydrological properties of dissimilar soils,

in Geoderma


pp. 182-190

Full Text UEA Repository



Peake, L., Freddo, A., Reid, B.


Sustaining Soils and Mitigating Climate Change Using Biochar,

in Sustainability Science and Technology : An Introduction.

CRC Press

pp. 109-126

ISBN 978-1-4665-1808-7

Full Text

(Other chapter contribution)


Peake, L.


The Invisible Superpower: a review of the geopolitical status of Kushite (Twenty-fifth Dynasty) Egypt at the height of its power and a historiographic analysis of the regime's legacy,

in Between the Cataracts: Proceedings of the 11th Conference of Nubian Studies.

pp. 465-476

(Conference contribution)


Stocking, M., Peake, L.


Crop yield losses from the erosion of alfisols,

in Tropical Agriculture



pp. 41-45

UEA Repository



Peake, L.


Erosion, crop yields and time: a reassessment of quantitative relationships,

in Development Studies Discussion Paper - University of East Anglia.

UEA Repository



Stocking, M., Peake, L.


Erosion-induced loss in soil productivity: trends in research and international co-operation,

UEA Repository

(Working paper)


Key Research Interests

My doctoral research was on the effects of biochar on soil of different types and the land use implications of these effects. The carbon sequestration aspects of biochar motivated my research but did not form part of it. The other following areas of research are those that interest me and in which I have been involved to varying degrees: quantifying the ecosystem service value of soils, soil carbon management, soil degradation (organic matter loss and erosion), soil survey, land use systems and planning, GIS, tropical agriculture and forestry (including agroforestry), impacts of climate change.

On a wider level I am interested in many aspects of science, geography, history, philosophy, politics, art and literature, and how they all interconnect. Archaeology and anthropology are particular interests, and one current area of interest is Iron Age farming, the subject of some of my taught seminars.

My PhD

Biochar amendment to improve soil productivity with particular emphasis on the influence of soil type.

My PhD project investigated the effect biochar (charcoal) has on soil productivity, in relation to soil type. Four distinct textural classes of soil widely found in eastern England are being compared. Three types of experiment were conducted: (1) laboratory tests; (2) long-term outdoor flowerpot trials with winter wheat; (3) long-term farm field trials. 
A great little film about biochar from ABC TV, Australia:

Current knowledge suggests that biochar can be applied to agricultural soils in order to boost crop yields and simultaneously sequester atmospheric carbon. Biochar could therefore have a role in ameliorating two of the major environmental problems facing humanity – climate change and food scarcity. Further benefits ascribed to biochar include reduced water demand (for irrigation), less downstream pollution and reduced emissions of greenhouse gases (eg NO2) from the soil.

Evidence suggests that some of these effects are influenced by soil type, but data is scarce and fragmentary. It is hoped that this research can help pave the way for fine-tuning the strategic deployment of biochar.

Publications and Presentations

Conference presentation
Peake, L. 2011. Biochar amendment to improve soil properties and sequester carbon. Presented at Soil Science in a Changing World, Wageningen, Sept 18-22.

Peake, L. 1986. Erosion, crop yields and time: a reassessment of quantitative relationships. Discussion Paper 191, School of Development Studies, University of East Anglia, Norwich.
Stocking, M.A. and L. Peake. 1986. Crop yield losses from the erosion of alfisols. 1986. Tropical Agriculture (Trinidad) 63 (1): 41-45.
Stocking, M.A. and L. Peake. 1985. Erosion-induced loss in soil productivity: trends in research and international co-operation. Paper to the IVth International Conference on Soil Erosion and Conservation, Maracay, Venezuela. November, 1985.

The following publications are unrelated to environmental science.

Peake, L. 2009. The Invisible Superpower: A review of the geopolitical status of Kushite (25th Dynasty) Egypt at the height of its powers and a historiographic analysis of the regime’s legacy. (In: Between the Cataracts: Proceedings of the 11th International Conference for Nubian Studies, Warsaw University, 27 August-2 September 2006, Part two: Session Papers, Warsaw 2009.)

Peake, L. 1994. Clever Clogs Series: Your Body. Hendersons. (Children’s book.)

Peake, L. 1990. A generic model of knowledge-based system tools. (In Addis, T R & Muir, R M. 1990. Research and Development in Expert Systems VII: Proceedings of Expert Systems 90. Presented at ES 90 Conference.)

Research Group Membership

My PhD supervisors were:

Primary supervisor: Brian Reid
Secondary supervisors: John McDonagh (DEV) & Andrew Lovett
Research colleague: Alessia Freddo, another PhD student investigating biochar.

Other colleagues at UEA and the focus of our collaboration or liaison:
I currently teach mainly in International Development (DEV), contributing to the undergraduate Natural Resources modules and the Masters module Global Agriculture & Food Systems (GAFS). I have also taught on DevCo short courses, such as the UNDP Global Food Systems course for delegates from the Turkish Ministry of Agriculture, in January 2018. My main contacts in DEV are John McDonagh, Oliver Springate-Baginski, Heike Schroeder & Yuelai Lu, of the Sustainable Agriculture Innovation Network (SAIN).
Outside UEA:

UK Biochar Research Centre, Edinburgh University: Saran Sohi & associates.
University of the West Indies (UWI), Trinidad: Gregory Gouveia & associates.
Geography Dept, Leeds University: Zoe Wallage. Cranfield: Jack Hannam. Reading: Steve Nortcliff.

Along with others at JHI, Scotland; ISRIC & Alterra, Wageningen; INRA, France; FAO & USDA.