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Impacts of Climate Change on Ecosystems

Department of Animal and Plant Sciences

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Prof G Phoenix Applications accepted all year round Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Climate change is one of the greatest threats to biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. We study the impacts of a wide range of climate changes including warming, extreme climatic events, increased carbon dioxide, rainfall and snow regime change and how these impact the biodiversity of ecosystems, and the capacity of ecosystems to cycle carbon and nutrients ( In the case of carbon cycling, we are especially interested in how ecosystem change alters ecosystem feedback to climate through changing uptake and release of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane. We work on plants and soils, and the interaction between these. PhD projects can be undertaken in any of these areas to study plant, soil and ecosystem responses to climate change, either in the UK or overseas.

Study locations include arctic, boreal or montane landscapes where some of the fastest rates of climate change is happening. Examples of topics include the impacts of acute (extreme) climate change events, such as drought and heat waves, on UK upland and arctic ecosystems, and comparing these impacts with those of gradual (trend) climate change. Such projects will include understanding inter-specific differences in plant response, and how individual species responses drive ecosystem responses. Such studies may lead to determining the impacts on the capacity of ecosystems to sequester carbon or cycle nutrients. Impacts of pollutant atmospheric nitrogen deposition, as a single factor or as a modifying factor in climate change responses can also be studied. Projects will suit those with an enthusiasm for understanding climate change impacts, plants and/or soils, and for combining field and lab based research. We will provide training in a diversity of methodologies for assessing ecosystem responses, from traditional survey and measurement techniques, through to advanced gas flux and hyperspectral analyses, plant physiology and soil chemistry.

Science Graduate School
As a PhD student in one of the science departments at the University of Sheffield, you’ll be part of the Science Graduate School. You’ll get access to training opportunities designed to support your career development by helping you gain professional skills that are essential in all areas of science. You’ll be able to learn how to recognise good research and research behaviour, improve your communication abilities and experience the breadth of technologies that are used in academia, industry and many related careers. Visit to learn more.

Funding Notes

Applicants will need to obtain funding to cover tuition fees and living expenses. The applicant should have, or expect to gain at least an upper second class degree, or equivalent overseas qualification, in a relevant subject
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