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Effects of changing climate on a tropical peat in Brazil: greenhouse gas sink or source?

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Thursday, January 31, 2019
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

This project is part of the ONE Planet DTP. Find out more here: https://research.ncl.ac.uk/one-planet/

Campina do Encantado is a tropical low-altitude bog (at sea level) that produces methane in São Paulo State, Brazil (under Tropical Forest). A classic carbon sink may be transforming into a carbon source. Tropical plants fix CO2 through photosynthesis and then store it as dead plant matter - peat! When this peat decays above the water-table, aerobic degradation causes release of CO2. But when the peat decays in places where oxygen is absent, below the water-table, both methane (CH4) and CO2 are emitted. It is well known that the problem with CH4 in the atmosphere is that it has a stronger warming effect than CO2. The aim of this project is to understand the underlying mechanism which is causing this tropical peatland to generate methane. Our working hypothesis is that “bound” phenolics, which inhibit microbial decomposition of the cell wall polysaccharides, will be gradually stripped away in surficial peats exposed to a drier climate, such that any rewetting of the peat could lead to anaerobic fermentation of the carbohydrates thereby generating methane and increasing the vulnerability of the peat to further decomposition (Abbott et al., 2013; Swain & Abbott, 2013). Field work in Brazil will be carried out in collaboration with Professor Pablo Vidal Torrado (University of São Paulo, Brazil). The PhD student will be supported in developing other aspects of the project that may include: i) organic geochemical characterization of tropical peats and soils; ii) processing of additional material from the UK or Brazil; iii) improved kinetic analysis for the generation of methane in a tropical peatland.

Prerequisites Laboratory and analytical training will be provided. However, candidates with experience in organic geochemical analyses are desirable. For more information, please contact Geoff Abbott ().

Funding Notes

Fully funded (3.5 years) PhD studentship awards available for entry September 2019. Each award includes fees (Home/EU), an annual living allowance (£14,777) and a Research Training Support Grant (for travel, consumables, as required).

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