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How long does it take for recovery of soil ecosystem functions from excess nitrogen deposition?

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  • Full or part time
    Dr L Jones
    Dr C Stevens
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

PhD studentship opportunities in Agriculture and the Environment

Supervisors: Laurence Jones (Centre for Ecology and Hydrology), Carly Stevens (Lancaster Environment Centre), Jonathan Storkey (Rothamsted Research)

Nitrogen (N) deposition has caused substantial declines in plant diversity and has elevated soil N pools and altered soil processes in semi-natural habitats (Stevens et al. 2011; Jones et al. 2014). In the UK, N deposition has dropped by 25% since its peak in 1990, but there is little evidence of recovery in plant species richness, except under high intensity management (Storkey et al. 2015). Soil processes underpin how plants respond to excess nutrients and are key to understanding the mechanisms and timescales under which vegetation communities can recover from eutrophication. This knowledge is essential to prioritise restoration methods which can accelerate recovery, and to value the long-term costs to society of N pollution on ecosystem services.

This exciting PhD will utilise recent and historical N addition experiments and gradient studies in multiple habitats, to assess the following questions: i) Can soils recover from N deposition; ii) do timescales of recovery in soil processes and soil N pools depend on the accumulated dose of N received; iii) does the rate of recovery differ for different soil processes; and iv) can recovery of soil processes be proxied by plant tissue chemistry indicators?

Academic Requirements: First-class or 2.1 (Hons) degree, or Masters degree (or equivalent) in an appropriate subject.

Deadline for applications: Midnight 31 March 2016

Provisional Interview Date: To Be Confirmed

Start Date: October 2016

Further Information:

Application process: Please upload a completed application form (download from outlining your background and suitability for this project and a CV at LEC Postgraduate Research Applications,

You also require two references, please send the reference form (download from to your two referees and ask them to email it to Andy Harrod ([Email Address Removed]), Postgraduate Research (PGR) Co-ordinator, Lancaster Environment Centre by the deadline.

Due to the limited time between the closing date and the interview date, it is essential that you ensure references are submitted by the closing date or as soon as possible.

Funding Notes

Full studentships (UK/EU tuition fees and stipend (£14,057 2015/16 [tax free])) for UK/EU students for 3.5 years. Unfortunately studentships are not available to non-UK/EU applicants.


Jones et al. (2014) Ecosystem Services 7, 76–88

Stevens et al. (2011) J. Vegetation Science 22, 207-215

Storkey et al. (2015) Nature 528, 401-3.

How good is research at Lancaster University in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 44.90

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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