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Do forests established on alkaline bedrock sink more or less carbon than forests established on other materials? (OP2232)

   Faculty of Science, Agriculture and Engineering

   Monday, January 24, 2022  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Newcastle United Kingdom Biochemistry Climate Science Geochemistry Geoscience Physical Geography Soil Science

About the Project

Project Description:

Reforestation and afforestation have gained increasing popularity amongst policymakers and third sector organisations as a means of mitigating climate change and meeting the UK’s Net Zero goals. Research on forest C sequestration has only focused so far on aboveground plant biomass and surface soils (i.e. <30 cm deep), rather than investigating C cycling deeper in the soil profile or in the underlying bedrock. However, rock weathering can impact the net C balance of ecosystems, either through mineral precipitation or dissolution reactions, which can sequester or release CO2. Current models of the C cycle do not account for the role of these geochemical processes in the C cycle of forests, and more needs to be done to evaluate the importance of these processes, particularly where the underlying bedrock may be vulnerable to destabilisation by acidic inputs (e.g. from the organic acids secreted by forest trees).

Exploiting the range of bedrock types and land uses easily accessible in NE England, we will use innovative approaches to measure the amount of carbon and its origin (inferred from isotope analysis) to determine how much CO2(g) is being converted into HCO3(aq), and how variable this process is. We will also study the fate of this dissolved carbon, which may be converted into carbonate minerals (a permanent sink), or transported to the ocean (a temporary sink) or released as CO2. This is especially important for limestones, as their weathering releases geologically stored carbon which may also be lost to atmosphere as CO2.  

The PhD researcher working on this project will work alongside staff at Northumbria and Newcastle Universities to measure carbon budgets through different bedrock types under different types of land cover in the natural laboratory of NE England, with the potential to expand to international sites as time and budget permits later in the project. The researcher will develop an exceptional suite of skills in environmental geochemistry and monitoring, making them a highly sought after employee post-graduation.

Funding Notes

This project is part of the NERC ONE Planet DTP. Each of our studentship awards include 3.5 years of fees (Home/EU), an annual living allowance (£15,650) and a Research Training Support Grant (for travel, consumables, etc).
Home and International applicants (inc. EU) are welcome to apply. Following the UKRI announcement regarding their new 30% UKRI international recruitment policy (to take effect from September 2021) both Newcastle University, and Northumbria University, have agreed to pay the international fee difference for all International applicants (inc. EU) who are awarded a DTP studentship. Interviews will take place in February 2022.
How to apply: View Website

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