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ONEPlanet DTP - Will reforesting limestone landscapes really capture extra atmospheric carbon? (OP2112)


Faculty of Engineering and Environment

Monday, January 18, 2021 Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

One benefit of reforestation is increased carbon storage within the soils of the area planted with trees. However, when soil carbon budgets are changed, this alters the flow of carbon into the groundwater in aquifers below the soil. Where the aquifer rock is limestone (see areas in Fig. 1), this influx of carbon can cause dissolution of the CaCO3 in the rock. This dissolution process, accelerated by tree planting, could release extra stored carbon to atmosphere, reducing the net carbon sequestration potential of these ecosystems. We have yet to determine what the flux of carbon released to water bodies and the atmosphere are for these sites, or how these fluxes change with re-forestation. This project will provide that urgently needed knowledge, giving it wide ramifications for the UK government’s NetZero policy agenda.
The PhD researcher working on this project will work alongside staff at Northumbria and Newcastle Universities to measure carbon flow through the limestones of the Pennines. The work will involve fieldwork in caves and on the surface, collecting water and installing unique monitoring systems, providing a unique and stimulating training opportunity. Work will be supported by analysis of water chemistry, quantification of gas exchange, or the impact of soil function on CO2 production, depending on the student’s interest. Our initial field site will be the National Cave Monitoring Centre, and the work is in partnership with the Woodland Trust, who are contributing support and £3,500 direct support.
The researcher will develop an exceptional suite of skills in environmental geochemistry and monitoring, making them a highly sought after employee post-graduation.

Funding Notes

Each of our studentship awards include 3.5 years of fees (Home/EU), an annual living allowance (£15,285) and a Research Training Support Grant (for travel, consumables, as required). Additional project costs are also provided by our CASE partner the Woodland Trust.

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