Campina do Encantado is a tropical low-altitude bog in southern São Paulo State (Brazil) that is releasing significant amounts of the greenhouse gas methane. The overarching aim of this project is to find out whether this process can either be stopped or at worst ameloriated but before that can be realised, the underlying molecular mechanisms driving methane generation need to be elucidated. Peatland 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 CH4 and CO2 are emitted. Methane-producing bacteria (methanogens) will be central to these processes. We will explore an hypothesis, developed from our earlier work on northern peatlands (Abbott et al., 2013; Swain & Abbott, 2013), that “bound” phenolics are responsible for inhibiting microbial decomposition of the cell wall polysaccharides. Given the increased frequency of drought-rewetting cycles, these phenols are stripped away in surficial peats exposed to drought whereupon if there is flooding, rewetting leads to anaerobic fermentation of the carbohydrates thereby generating methane. Field work and sample collection will be carried out in collaboration with Escola Superior de Agricultura "Luiz de Queiroz" (University of São Paulo, Brazil).
The PhD student will be supported in developing other aspects of the project that will include: i) organic geochemical characterization of methanogens; ii) processing of peat from the UK (Butterburn Flow, Northumberland, UK) and iii) improved kinetic analysis for the generation of methane in a tropical peatland. Prerequisites Laboratory and analytical training will be provided. For more information, please contact Geoff Abbott ([email protected]).
This project is part of the ONE Planet DTP. Find out more here: View Website