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Coppice management to reduce nutrient loads in forest streams

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  • Full or part time
    Prof S Krause
    Dr S Ullah
    Dr N Kettridge
    Dr I Baker
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Most of the UK rivers (and rivers in intensively used landscapes world-wide) suffer from excess
nutrient concentrations, causing severe stress to aquatic environments (eutrophication), the
economy (clean up costs for water supplies) and public health (e.g. blue baby syndrome). Initial
research of the supervisors has revealed that accumulations of large woody debris in forest streams
has significant potential to enhance microbial metabolic activities and the spiralling of nutrients in
streams, representing a viable strategy to restore the water quality in our rivers.

In order to enhance wood accumulations in UK rivers it requires management strategies that use
local produce to be used in-situ where it stimulated nutrient turnover and specifically denitrification.
Recently, the UK forest industry has been seeing a revival of small woodland management and
coppice practice – with coppice products such as small –wood bundles being used in restoration of
river banks and anti-erosion measures.

In this project, academics of the University of Birmingham work closely together with forest
managers (Smallwoods) and river restoration practitioners (Severn Rivers Trust) to supervise a PhD
student in investigating how small-wood bundles can be efficiently used in stream restoration
practice to enhance nutrient turnover and denitrification. Therefore, small-wood bundles will be
installed in several UK stream reaches and their impact on hyporheic exchange between the river
and the streambed and its consequences for microbial metabolic activities, nutrient spiralling,
denitrification as well as the sequestration of wood carbon and potential greenhouse gas production
(N2O from incomplete denitrification) be observed in comparison to non-restored reaches.

The PhD project will pioneer the integrated use of in-situ sensor network and smart tracer
technologies to tackle this urgent research problem. Results will directly inform restoration and
environmental engineering practice not only of the closely involved stakeholders from the River but
through the networks of Smallwoods as well as our involvement with the River Restoration Centre,
directly impact national and international management practice. The interdisciplinary supervision of
University academics and practitioners will provide the PhD student with exceptional scientific and
practical management skills, directly applicable for a future academic research or industry,
regulatory career.

The project will integrate cutting edge smart tracer and distributed sensor network technologies,
monitoring how the installation of coppice wood bundles can enhance nutrient spiralling and thus,
nitrate uptake in woodland streams. Therefore, in-situ water quality monitoring sensors (dissolved
oxygen, nutrients, carbon, temperature) will be deployed at coppice bundle installations in the
streambed and a reference site to quantify induced alterations to water quality. Injections of the
Resazurin/Resorufin smart tracer will be used to quantify coppice bundle effects on whole stream
reach respiration for different installation setups in order to directly inform management,
engineering and restoration practice.

Funding Notes

Full payment of tuition fees at Research Councils UK fee level (£4,270 in 2018/19), to be paid by the University;
An annual maintenance grant at current UK Research Councils rates (2018/19 is £14,764), to be paid in monthly installments to the Leverhulme Trust Doctoral Scholar by the University.
All studentships come with a minimum of £3,000 Research Training Support Grant. This can be increased, if there are justified project costs, up to a maximum of £12,000.
Funding is available for UK or EU students only. The tenure of the award can be for up to 3.5 years (42 months).


Shelley, F., Klaar, M., Krause, S., Trimmer M. (2017). Enhanced hyporheic exchange flow around
woody debris does not increase nitrate reduction in a sandy streambed. Biogeochemistry. 136: 353.
Blaen P., Khamis K., Lloyd C. E.M., Bradley C., Krause S. (2016) Real-time monitoring of nutrients and
dissolved organic matter in rivers: adaptive sampling strategies, technological challenges and future
directions. Science of the Total Environment. 569–570, 647-660, doi:
Krause S., Klaar M., Hannah D.M., Trimmer M. J. Mant, S. Manning-Jones (2014). The potential of
large woody debris to alter biogeochemical processes and ecosystem services in lowland rivers.
WIREs Water 2014, 1: 263-275. doi: 10.1002/wat2.1019

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