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How biodiverse ecosystems store more soil carbon in Australia

Faculty of Health Sciences

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Prof R Viscarra Rossel No more applications being accepted Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The successful candidate will gain experience in field and laboratory experimentation, current methodologies for soil C accounting, modern methods of soil and plant analysis, statistical analyses and modelling.

An opportunity is available for an outstanding PhD scholar in the area of soil carbon with the School of Molecular and Life Sciences in the Faculty of Science and Engineering at Curtin University. Maintaining or increasing soil organic carbon (C) is critical to tackling climate change. It is also the most vital element controlling soil health, which enables soils to be resilient. Soil organic C exerts positive effects on soil physical and chemical properties. It increases the soil’s capacity to provide ecosystem services, such as the provision of food and the regulation of nutrient cycles and climate. Soil organic SOC storage represents the balance of two main processes: carbon inputs (e.g., net carbon gain by plants) and losses (e.g. microbial decomposition). Research in experimental plots and managed ecosystems suggests that biodiversity has the potential to influence C sequestration by modifying both processes. However, the effects of plant species diversity and organic C storage in rangelands ecosystems are not well known, and the mechanisms of soil C formation, stabilisation and loss are yet to be understood. Theory suggests that climate predominantly controls large-scale patterns of soil C storage, plant diversity and biomass production. However, there is growing evidence that edaphic factors play essential roles and at different spatial scales. For instance, large soil organic C stores can impose positive feedbacks on species richness and biomass production by affecting soil water-holding capacity and soil fertility.

This overall aim of this project is to understand better and to predict the effects of biodiversity and climate change on soil organic C capture and sequestration in the Australian rangelands. The two main activities will involve: (i) experiments to research the links between plant C inputs and the pathways and mechanisms of soil C formation and loss, and (ii) study of the influences of environmental and edaphic (biotic and abiotic) factors on soil organic C storage, plant diversity, productivity, and the interrelationships among these factors across ecological gradients.

Funding Notes

The scholarship is a full-time enrolment for a period of 3.5 years. No part time, casual or other allowed.

Total value of the annual scholarships (stipend and fees) is approx. $60,000 - $70,000 p.a.

Curtin PhD Stipends are valued at $28,092 p.a. for a maximum of 3.5 years.

Domestic students will receive a 100% Fee offset. For a successful international student, PhD tuition fees offsets between 75% – 100% will apply.


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