Don't miss our weekly PhD newsletter | Sign up now Don't miss our weekly PhD newsletter | Sign up now

Carbon leakage in forest ecosystems – towards a better understanding of the real contribution of forests to mitigate climate change

   School of Computing, Engineering & the Built Environment

About the Project

Reference number: SCEBE/21SF/009/AO

Aim and Scope

The ability of forest ecosystems to store carbon (C; e.g. CO2) above and belowground makes afforestation one of the leading measures to fight climate change. Atmospheric CO2 is trapped in the vegetation and then stored in the forest soil, from where it cycles back to the atmosphere as a result of soil respiration (SR). SR is a complex soil microbial process depending on the soil properties and composition, hydro-climatic conditions, and vegetation type. The succession of drying and wetting hydrological cycles within the forest soil seems to trigger “hot-spots” and “hot-moments” of SR, by which large amounts of CO2 are released from the soil. Over 50 % of this CO2 may be released in dissolved form, entering the soil solution and, thus, being potentially lost through soil percolation and then transported to other environmental compartments. Yet, the latter component of the C cycle has been largely neglected, leading to systematic underestimations of SR and to an inaccurate account on the contribution of forest ecosystems to mitigating climate change.

The aims of the project are to:

•            Explore the combination of biological, edaphological, and climatic factors regulating Soil Respiration

•            Investigate plant traits contributing to the formation of “hot-spots” and “hot-moments” of soil respiration

•            Quantify C leakage through soil percolation

•            Build numerical models able to describe and predict C leakage in forest soils under different climate scenarios

•            Disseminate the project outcomes to relevant stakeholders

The successful applicant will be able to demonstrate understanding of ecosystems functioning and biogeochemical and hydrological cycles. Expertise in undertaking field and laboratory work is desirable. A good grasp of statistical methods and tools, such as R, is preferable. Effective oral and written communication skills are mandatory. Full driving licence is desirable.

Candidates are invited to submit a more detailed research proposal (of a maximum of 2000 words) on the project area as part of their application.  

To apply for the project, please use the links below

· As a full-time student:

· As a part-time student:

Engineering (12)

Funding Notes

Applicants are expected to find external funding sources to cover the tuition fees and living expenses. Alumni and International students new to GCU who are self-funding are eligible for fee discounts.
See more on fees and funding. View Website


For further information, please contact:
Director of Studies
Name: Dr Alejandro Gonzalez Ollauri
GCU Research Online URL: (essential)
2nd Supervisor Name: Prof Slobodan B. Mickovski
GCU Research Online URL: (essential)
3rd Supervisor Name: Prof Rohinton Emmanuel
GCU Research Online URL: (essential)

Register your interest for this project