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The role of soil organic carbon in soil function dynamics

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, November 01, 2019
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

Sustainable food production is top of the global policy agenda. This requires that soil functions are optimized (Rojas et al., 2016; Schulte et al., 2014) to sustainably meet increased agricultural productivity (provision of food, fibre and fuel), and other necessary soil functions such as carbon sequestration, climate regulation and nutrient cycling. Soil organic carbon (SOC) is strongly linked to these soil functions and is recognised as a keystone indicator of soil quality (Koch et al., 2013), but the relationship between SOC and specific soil functions has not yet been quantitatively determined. Carbon:nutrient stoichiometry has recently been shown to limit the stabilised SOC pool (Kirkby et al., 2016; 2013). This research will investigate the mechanisms for soil organic matter (SOM) stabilization and determine how improved soil function can be controlled by macroscale manipulation of nutrients. To evaluate the impact of soil management on soil functions, the dynamics of soil functions need to be better understood (Vogel et al., 2018) This includes interpretation of soil indicators within soil functions (Bünemann et al., 2018).
The research project objective is to advance the mechanistic understanding of soil function dynamics in response to soil management. The aims are to:
(i) quantify how C:nutrient stoichiometry impacts soil carbon storage pools
(ii) determine how changes to soil carbon storage pools impact soil functions
(iii) investigate if the dynamics of soil functions can be assessed by spectral measurement

Funding Notes

Funding received from
(i) Irish Research Council Laureate Awards 2017/2018
(ii) University College Dublin Ad Astra Fellowship Award 2019

An IELTS English Language Test, or equivalent, is required.


Bünemann et al. (2018) Soil quality - A critical review. Soil Biol Biochem, 120, 105-125.
Kirkby CA et al. (2016) Inorganic nutrients increase humification efficiency and C sequestration in an annually cropped soil. PLoS ONE 11: e0153698.
Kirkby CA et al. (2013) Carbon-nutrient stoichiometry to increase soil carbon sequestration. Soil Biol Biochem, 60, 77-86.
Koch A et al. (2013) Soil Security: Solving the Global Soil Crisis. Global Policy, 4, 434-441.
Rojas RV et al. (2016) Healthy soils: a prerequisite for sustainable food security. Environ Earth Sci, 75,180.
Schulte RPO et al. (2014) Functional land management: A framework for managing soil based ecosystem services for the sustainable intensification of agriculture. Environ Sci Policy, 38, 45-58.
Vogel et al. (2018) A systemic approach for modeling soil functions. Soil, 4, 83-92.

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