About the Partnership
This project is one of a number that are in competition for funding from the NERC Great Western Four+ Doctoral Training Partnership (GW4+ DTP). The GW4+ DTP consists of the Great Western Four alliance of the University of Bath, University of Bristol, Cardiff University and the University of Exeter plus five Research Organisation partners: British Antarctic Survey, British Geological Survey, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, the Natural History Museum and Plymouth Marine Laboratory. The partnership aims to provide a broad training in earth and environmental sciences, designed to train tomorrow’s leaders in earth and environmental science.
Tropical forest soils play a key role in the global carbon cycle, with Amazonian soils containing around 70 Pg C in the upper 1 m alone – equivalent to the amount of C found in all the aboveground vegetation. Thus, it is essential to understand the mechanisms that control soil carbon dynamics in the Amazon, and to develop strategies to integrate soil carbon storage into land management. Increasing levels of wildfire, coupled with drought, threaten to cause substantial carbon emissions from Amazonian soils and vegetation. There are major knowledge gaps in understanding of post-fire C dynamics that this PhD will address. The effect of burning on soil carbon may vary with fire regime, with potential for more frequent burning to compound carbon loss from soil. On the other hand, charcoal formed during forest fires may play a key role in post-fire soil carbon dynamics, as it forms a recalcitrant carbon pool, which may improve soil fertility and reduce the negative impact of droughts on plant growth. Neither of these things have been robustly quantified.
Project Aims and Methods
This project aims to determine the response of soil carbon stocks and soil respiration to fire regime, addition of carbon / charcoal to the soil and interannual climate variability. Long-term soil respiration measurements from experimental burn treatment plots, spanning wet/dry seasons and climate anomalies, will be used to disentangle the effects of post-fire carbon inputs and changes to soil temperature/moisture, and charcoal on soil carbon dynamics. Land surface models will be used to further explore the role of charcoal in soil carbon dynamics, and to extrapolate results to larger space and time scales.
You will be part of a larger research project aiming to quantify the interaction between land-use change, droughts and forest fires on carbon dynamics across the Amazon. As such, there will be ample opportunities to link your results (derived from experimental plots) to measurements taken at a large range of locations across the Amazon. Results may also be linked to changes in aboveground carbon storage.
Although you will be trained in field techniques, previous fieldwork experience would be beneficial. Experience in data-analysis using R / Python would be essential.
Met Office will be a partner in this project, bringing expertise in modelling of soil carbon dynamics and upscaling of experimental results, and providing opportunities to learn about soil carbon modelling yourself.
You will receive training in data-analysis and various field techniques. This project will likely include fieldwork in Brazil and/or Peru, dependent on travel restrictions.
For further information and to submit an application please visit - https://www.exeter.ac.uk/study/funding/award/?id=4601