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Geochemical constraints on the hydrological restoration of groundwater-dependent wetlands in lowland catchments.

Project Description

Healthy, functioning natural wetlands are critically important, yet the world is rapidly losing these habitats due to anthropogenic pressures. Rates of loss have historically been particularly large in lowland Europe. Consequently, there have been substantial efforts to restore wetlands, including through the restoration of more natural hydrological regimes. However, in many cases, the quality of inflows has also changed over time, and rewetting may lead to increased nutrient inputs, availability and/or mobility. The overall aim of this proposal is therefore to assess the possible impacts of rewetting wetlands with nitrate-rich groundwater on nutrient availability and exports to watercourses, and to propose possible mitigation options if required. Greywell Fen (Hampshire) will be used as a case study. The PhD student will:

• identify sources and sinks of biologically-available nitrogen and phosphorus within the fen and the hydro-chemical processes that influence these using 4D spatio-temporal mapping of these elements and of selected environmental tracers sampled from boreholes in the chalk, peat dipwells, peat pores and surface water;
• quantify the ecosystem services provided by the fen in terms of nitrate and phosphate depollution;
• using a mesocosm experiment, understand changes in nutrient depletion rates and in the concentrations of base cations, nutrients and sulphide that can be expected under different rewetting and nutrient input regimes;
• propose restoration and mitigation scenarios for the fen.

The student will receive training in analytical biogeochemistry and instrumentation (e.g. ICP-MS/OES, UV-VIS spectroscopy and Continuous Flow Analysis), fieldwork, critical analysis of primary research material, scientific writing for publication, etc. There will be an opportunity to undertake placement(s) and additional training at SEW’s headquarters in Snodland (Kent) and/or laboratory in Farnborough (Hampshire), allowing the student to develop an in-depth understanding of the water industry.
The student will have the opportunity to collaborate with another PhD student focussing on the hydrology and hydrogeology of the fen.

Funding Notes

• Applicants should hold or expect to gain a minimum of a 2:1 Bachelor Degree or equivalent in environmental science, chemistry and/or physical geography (or closely related), and a demonstrated interest in hydro/geochemistry.
• A driving license is required for travel to the research site.
• This studentship is open to UK/EU students only.
• Starts October 2019.
• 3-year award.
• Covers tuition fees, UKRI stipend and expenses.
• This project is co-funded by South East Water.

Please submit an application for a PhD in Environmental Science (SAGES), at View Website.

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