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Understanding controls on peat formation in the Congo basin (CENTA2-SGGE2-BOOM)


Project Description

Tropical peatlands are dense, long-term stores of carbon (C) that are vital components of global C soil-atmosphere exchange processes. They contain ~130 Gt C (20% of global peat C; Page et al. 2011, Dargie et al. 2017) but are very vulnerable to destabilisation through human- and climate-induced changes, including deforestation, drainage, drought and fire, which enhance peat oxidation and convert long- term CO2 sinks into globally significant CO2 sources. The peatlands of the Cuvette Centrale in the Congo Basin have only recently been discovered; they are the largest peatland complex in the tropics, occupying some 145,500 km2, an area slightly larger than England, and storing 30.6 Pg C (Dargie et al. 2017). These peatlands appear to form shallow domes with a well-marked zonation of different vegetation types from dome edge to centre. Controls on peat and carbon accumulation rates will likely depend on factors that limit the decomposition rates of organic matter, i.e. waterlogging, low pH, as well as those that limit the availability of resources for decomposer microorganisms, i.e. poor quality plant litter, deficiency of nutrient elements. Initial measurements indicate that Congo peats have a higher C density than other tropical peats, possibly due to low net accumulation rates, and indicating that these peatlands may be vulnerable to even modest changes in environmental conditions that could cause the system to transition from a C sink to a C source.

This project will investigate surface peat and peat water geochemistry in relation to vegetation, hydrology and geomorphological setting in order to explore the relative importance of environmental controls on peat formation, decomposition and contemporary ecosystem functioning, including production of greenhouse gases (CO2, CH4). A range of geochemical techniques could be employed (including stable isotopes and organic geochemical analyses). The data will provide an improved knowledge of the controls on peat and GHG production rates, as well as delivering inputs for parameterisation of models of peatland development, and the formulation of practical and policy-focused measures aimed at ensuring responsible peatland management.

Entry Requirements:

UK Bachelor Degree with at least 2:1 in a relevant subject or overseas equivalent.

Available for UK and EU applicants only.

Applicants must meet requirements for both academic qualifications and residential eligibility: http://www.nerc.ac.uk/skills/postgrad/

How to Apply:

Please follow refer to the How to Apply section at http://www2.le.ac.uk/study/research/funding/centa/how-to-apply-for-a-centa-project and use the Geography Apply button to submit your PhD application.

Upload your CENTA Studentship Form in the proposal section of the application form.

In the funding section of the application please indicate you wish to be considered for NERC CENTA Studentship.

Under the proposal section please provide the name of the supervisor and project title/project code you want to apply for.

Funding Notes

This project is one of a number of fully funded studentships available to the best UK and EU candidates available as part of the NERC DTP CENTA consortium.

For more details of the CENTA consortium please see the CENTA website: View Website.

Applicants must meet requirements for both academic qualifications and residential eligibility: View Website

The studentship includes a 3.5 year tuition fee waiver at UK/EU rates

An annual tax free stipend (For 2019/20 this is currently £15,009)

Research Training Support Grant (RTSG) of £8,000.

References

Journal:

Dargie, G. …. Page, S.E., et al. (2018) Congo Basin peatlands: threats and conservation priorities. Mitig. & Adapt. Strats Global Change. doi.org/10.007/s11027-017-9774-8

Dargie, G., Lewis, S., Lawson, I, Page, S.E. et al. (2017) Age, extent, and carbon storage of the central Congo Basin peatland complex. Nature, 542, 86-90. doi:10.1038/nature21048

Hoyos-Santillan, J., Lomax, B.H., Large, D., Turner, B.L., Boom, A., Lopez, O.R. & Sjögersten, S. (2015) Getting to the root of the problem: litter decomposition and peat formation in lowland neotropical peatlands. Biogeochemistry, 126, 115-129.
Page S.E. et al. (2011) Global and regional importance of the tropical peatland carbon pool. Glob. Change Biol., 17, 798-818

Web page:

https://www.nationalgeographic.co.uk/environment-and-conservation/2019/10/inside-search-africas-carbon-time-bomb
https://congopeat.net/

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