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QUADRAT: Multidisciplinary Quantification Ecosystem Services to Streams, Provided by Formerly Afforested Blanket Bog.

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Wednesday, January 22, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Extensive areas of upland blanket peat have been developed for commercial coniferous forestry over the past 70 years. The modification of these areas has resulted in extensive changes to the bogs that host them and the ecosystem services they provide. More recent recognition of the importance of these areas for providing wider benefits to society has resulted in the removal of many plantations, with the goal of restoring more natural ecological conditions and improving ecosystem services, such as reduced risk of flooding, better water quality and improved biodiversity.

This project will examine these topics in detail with the aim of determining feasibility of restoring other formerly afforested peatlands. Work will be carried out in dedicated study areas (catchments) that are either (a) afforested, (b) recently cleared of forestry, but not restored, (c) formerly afforested and then restored, or (d) an undeveloped blanket bog that has never been afforested. By comparing the water quality, stream flow and biodiversity in each area, the impact of restoration measures will be evaluated. Work will compare findings of results of an ongoing programme being carried out at Queen’s University Belfast that has examine conditions in streams draining relatively intact blanket bog at three test sites across Ireland, over the past three years.
Proposed research will involve continuous monitoring of colour, mineralisation (SEC) and hydrology (stream runoff, groundwater level, rainfall and evapotranspiration). More targeted sampling for water quality analysis in the laboratory and focused monitoring for biodiversity will aim to more confidently define the potential benefits that restoration activities can bring to streams draining blanket peatlands.

Field work will be carried out at the CAFRE Hill Farm, Glenwherry, Co. Antrim, which forms part of Northern Ireland Water’s Killylane Drinking Water Catchment. This area is owned by the Northern Ireland Department Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), who support this study by providing access to study sites, provision of monitoring equipment and assistance in field sampling/monitoring. In addition, DAERA have also installed dedicated equipment for monitoring hydrological conditions at the study sites. Continuous hydrological monitoring has been on-going at the site since June 2019. Further assistance will be provided by Northern Ireland Water, who have agreed to provide additional hydrological and water quality loggers, laboratory equipment and field autosamplers, for collection of water samples for laboratory analyses.

Research will be jointly supervised by Dr. Raymond Flynn (QUB), who will oversee peatland hydrological investigations and assist in day to day logistics. Dr. Vasilis Louca will oversee biological sampling and characterisation of the field study areas, while Dr. Donal Mullan will focus on the supervision of water quality sampling and issues related to sediment loss. This research would suit candidates with a strong Environmental Science (, including Earth Science,) or Environmental Engineering Background. Alternatively, activities could suit candidates with a strong field-based Biological Sciences background interested in diversifying their skill set into the area of Ecosystem Restoration.


Candidates should have (or expect to achieve) a minimum of a 2.1 Honours degree in a relevant subject. Applicants with a minimum of a 2.2 Honours degree may be considered providing they have a Distinction at Master’s level.


• Apply for Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Geosciences
• State name of the lead supervisor as ‘Name of Proposed Supervisor’ on application
• State ‘QUADRAT DTP’ as Intended Source of Funding
• Select the ‘Visit Website’ to apply now

Funding Notes

This project is funded by the NERC QUADRAT-DTP and is available to UK/EU nationals who meet the UKRI eligibility criteria. Please visit View Website for more information.

The studentship provides funding for tuition fees, stipend and a research training and support grant subject to eligibility.

How good is research at Queen’s University Belfast in Geography, Environmental Studies and Archaeology?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 30.80

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

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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