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Forest Nitrogen Cycling in a high CO2 world

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

A ground breaking ‘Free-Air Carbon Dioxide Enrichment’ (FACE) facility is currently being built by the University of Birmingham to study the effects of enhanced CO2 on the UK’s woodlands. In particular, the facility will test the resilience of a mature forest to a high carbon future and enable globally leading scientists to take measurements from deep within the soil to above the tree canopy.

The experiment will comprise six, 30-metre wide, FACE rings, each as tall as the mature trees in the woodland. Soil, water and air measurements of macronutrient concentrations and fluxes are made throughout the woodland. The facility includes a new purpose built fieldwork compound and field study centre in a converted barn near the site. The CO2 enrichment will begin in Spring 2016 and hence the successful student will be in the enviable position of being in the first cohort to perform measurements at this international important experiment.

This PhD opportunity will be the initial part of a 10 year study that starts to try to answer the question
• Is the mature forest nitrogen limited?
• If not, will it become nitrogen limited in a high CO2 world and how the forest responds to alleviate the nitrogen limitation?
• If yes, will the forest take up more carbon in a high CO2 world?

It is crucial we answer these questions because nutrients, including nitrogen, may determine how much carbon can be taken up by the forests. If the mature forests become nitrogen limited, then the amounts of carbon it can uptake will be much less than we predict in current earth system models. If so, the accumulation of CO2 and the increase in temperature in the future will be much faster than we predicted. To counteract this, much more must be done now to avoid disastrous climate change. Therefore, this work will provide important implications for international policy making on climate change.

This is just one example of the sort of project that might be available in this research group. The precise project will be decided upon in consultation with the supervisor

To find out more about studying for a PhD at the University of Birmingham, including full details of the research undertaken in the School, the funding opportunities available for your subject, and guidance on making your application, you can order a copy of our Doctoral Research Prospectus, at: http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/drp

References

http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/research/activity/bifor/index.aspx

Norby et al. (2015) ‘Model-data synthesis for the next generation of forest free-air CO2 enrichment (FACE) experiments’ New Phytologist. onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/nph.13593/

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