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The Role of Place and Scale on Effectiveness of Temporary Storage Areas for Surface Runoff Attenuation

Project Description

This project addresses the need to understand where and at what scale land management could help to improve above and below ground storm water storage for managing floods. It will provide crucial steps for policy and practitioners to design and manage temporary water storage strategies within our landscapes.

Many regions across the world face increasing pressures of managing flood risk whilst accommodating urban development and increases in intensively farmed landscapes. Intensive agriculture often results in soil structure and drainage degradation (Hallett et al., 2016) which in turn leads to increases in local runoff rates, water quality issues, soil erosion/loss and local flooding problems (Wilkinson et al., 2019). Via appropriate land management, there is potential for agriculture and wider land management to play a part in reducing surface water flood risk to other areas at risk from flooding. Flood risk management in the UK and EU is currently undergoing a paradigm shift, with a change in emphasis from solely working with structural defences to considering Nature-Based Solutions (or Natural Flood Management measures) which attenuate surface flood runoff. A measure being used in a variety of landscapes is a temporary storage area (TSA), designed to attenuate storm surface runoff. TSAs can vary in volume, deliver multiple benefits (e.g. trapping sediments) and can be appealing to landowners as many TSA footprints could be still utilised for other purposes (e.g. Wilkinson et al., 2014). However, there is still a lack of evidence on their functioning at larger catchment scales, during extreme events and importantly, how they interact with soils and subsurface drainage.

The aim of this PhD is to understand the functioning of TSAs regarding scale and place. The project would focus on the following key questions: (1) What is the role of heterogeneity in and management of soil properties on TSA functioning? (2) Would it be better to have one large, or many small dispersed features and (3) where should these be placed in the landscape? Ultimately the project will contribute to more effective targeting and management of TSAs. The PhD will involve data analysis of existing measures coupled with further hydrological and soil analysis field and lab work. The field evidence will be used in hydrological models and to develop decision support tools to further explore the research questions.

The project will benefit from existing established Scottish research platforms where TSAs have been implemented within wider hydrometric monitoring networks in Scotland. This PhD research will be carried out at the James Hutton Institute, Aberdeen (Supervisor Dr Mark Wilkinson [email: ]) and the University of Aberdeen (Supervisors Dr Josie Geris and Professor Paul Hallett). The collaboration of supervisors across two institutions and departments will allow state-of the art approaches from their respective disciplines. The studentship will integrate hydrological and soil field monitoring and multi-scale modelling studies. Strong policy and industry relevant interdisciplinary training will also be provided.

The successful candidate should have or expect to receive a 2.1 Honours Degree (or equivalent) or Masters in Earth and Environmental Sciences (e.g. Hydrology, Soil Science, Geosciences, Environmental Sciences, Geography, Environmental Engineering, or any other relevant numerate, scientific discipline). An enthusiasm to carry out field work, laboratory experiments and analysis combined with hydrological modelling is also required. A driving licence would be desirable.

Funding Notes

The Hydro Nation Scholars Programme is an open competition for PhD Scholars to undertake approved projects, hosted within Scottish Universities and Research Institutes. This project will be hosted at the University of Aberdeen.
Full funding is available from the Scottish Government (to host institutions via the Scottish Funding Council). The funding available will be in line with the UKRI doctoral stipend levels and indicative fees.
Applicants should have a first-class honours degree in a relevant subject or a 2.1 honours degree plus Masters (or equivalent). Shortlisted candidates will be interviewed in February 2020.


• Wilkinson, M.E.; Addy, S.; Quinn, P.F.; Stutter, M.I. (2019). Natural flood management: small-scale progress and larger-scale challenges. Scottish Geographical Journal. Early view.
• Hallett, P., Hall, R., Lilly, A., Baggaley, B., Crooks, B., Ball, B., Raffan, A., Braun, H., Russell, T., Aitkenhead, M., Riach, D., Rowan, J., Long, A. (2016). Effect of soil structure and field drainage on water quality and flood risk. CRW2014_03. https://www.crew.ac.uk/publication/soil-structure-field-drainage
• Wilkinson, M.E., Quinn, P. F., Barber, N. J., & Jonczyk, J. (2014). A framework for managing runoff and pollution in the rural landscape using a Catchment Systems Engineering approach. Science of the Total Environment, 468, 1245-1254.

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