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Carbon Capture for Soil Ecosystem Service Enhancement (REIDUENV20ARIES)

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Tuesday, January 07, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description


Over the last century, agriculture has caused soil erosion and the loss of soil organic carbon on an enormous scale. These losses have damaged the delivery key soil ecosystem services; including, soil carbon storage per se, soil biodiversity, soil resilience to climate change, soil fertility and increased flood risk. In June 2019, the UK Government declared “what no country can stand, is the loss of its soil and its fertility, and therefore, there is an emergency”.


This research is timely as it aligns with global aspirations (4 Per Mil Initiative to build soil carbon stocks for climate change mitigation. The research will key into the rethinking of UK agricultural payment policy; that, under the ELM System, will allocate agri-payments for the delivery of public “goods” (i.e. soil ecosystem services).


Working with the CASE Partner (Greenworld), the research will instate field trials to quantify the influence of paper crumble (PC; a by-product of waste paper recycling) on soil carbon, soil quality and the delivery of manifold soil services. Measurements, to evaluate key physical, chemical and biological attributes will be made at these trials over the course of the PhD. Using this data, the research will apply environmental economic tools and GIS to translate measurements (relating to soil carbon gains and their influence upon soil services) to create regional and national visualisation of holistic SES benefit associated with PC application to dissimilar soils. The project and its outputs will be of immediate interest to DEFRA. Though links to this Agency impact will be realised.


Training will be provided in research design, the assessment of soil physical, chemical and biological properties, GIS and environmental economics. The student will gain first-hand experience of instrumentation to assess soil nutrients and biological functioning and visualisation tools to communicate science effectively.


Applicants should have i) experience of analysis of environmental media (soil, water etc) and field-based research, and ii) an aptitude/willingness, to combine natural science with environmental economics and geographic systems

More information on the supervisor for this project:
Type of programme: PhD
Start date: October 2020
Mode of study: Full-time or part-time
Studentship length: 3.5 years
Partner: Greenworld Sales Ltd
Eligibility requirements: First degree in Environmental Science, Environmental Chemistry, Biochemistry, Earth Science, Geography or Ecology

Funding Notes

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the ARIES NERC Doctoral Training Partnership, and will involve attendance at mandatory training events throughout the PhD.

Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on 18/19 February 2020.

Successful candidates who meet UKRI’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship. UK and EU nationals who have been resident in the UK for 3 years are eligible for a full award.

Excellent applicants from quantitative disciplines with limited experience in environmental sciences may be considered for an additional 3-month stipend to take advanced-level courses in the subject area.

For further information, please visit View Website


Lal, R. (2010). Managing soils and ecosystems for mitigating anthropogenic carbon emissions and advancing global food security. BioScience, 60, 708-721.

Smith, P. (2007). Land use change and soil organic carbon dynamics. Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems, 81, 169-178.

XM Li, QL Chen, C He, Q Shi, SC Chen, BJ Reid, YG Zhu, GX Sun (2019). Organic carbon amendment, the chemodiversity of soil dissolved organic matter and its associations with soil microbial communities. Environmental Science and Technology, 53, 50-59.

Latawiec, A.E., 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. (2017) A reconnaissance-scale GIS-based multicriteria decision analysis to support sustainable biochar use: Poland as a case study. Journal of Environmental Engineering and Landscape Management, 25, 208-222.

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