NERC GW4+ DTP PhD studentship: Development of erosion-perturbed C dynamics models for integration in JULES

University of Exeter - College of Life and Environmental Science

This project is one of a number that are in competition for funding from the NERC Great Western Four+ Doctoral Training Partnership (GW4+ DTP). At least 4 fully-funded studentships that encompass the breadth of earth and environmental sciences are being offered to start in September 2017 at Exeter. The studentships will provide funding for a stipend which is currently £14,296 per annum for 2016-2017, research costs and UK/EU tuition fees at Research Council UK rates for 42 months (3.5 years) for full-time students, pro rata for part-time students.

Main supervisor: Prof Tim Quine (Geography, University of Exeter)

There is strong evidence that accelerated soil erosion perturbs soil organic carbon (SOC) dynamics (e.g. Li et al., 2015). Nevertheless, much of the empirical evidence to date has been derived at the field to catchment-scale and, although data assimilation evidences a significant role in the global export of terrestrial SOC to the oceans (Regnier et al., 2013), there remains a need to develop and apply a modelling framework to explore erosion induced perturbation of SOC dynamics both systematically and efficiently at large spatial scales. The proposed studentship will address this crucial knowledge gap and develop an approach to modelling this process interaction in Earth System model land surface schemes such as JULES.

Focusing on arable landscapes, the student will investigate the change in net carbon exchange with the atmosphere that is predicted with JULES as the complexity of erosion representation is varied. The influence of resolution in representation of erosion-induced spatial heterogeneity of soil carbon will be explored and simplified schemes for handling lateral transfer of SOC will be developed and tested. This will allow: (1) exploration of the net effect of erosion-induced variation in SOC distributions on the C-dynamics of the arable landscape; (2) evaluation of the significance of this SOC-dynamics perturbation for earth system simulations; (3) identification of strategies to incorporate this variability in regional to global scale models. Therefore, the student will develop underpinning science and assessments to evaluate the importance of these processes, and help inform strategies for modelling them appropriately across different scales. This will provide valuable information on strategies, and priorities for land surface (JULES) and earth system modelling, with relevance to the Met Office Hadley Centre Climate Programme in the longer-term.

In addition to support from the supervisory team, the student will benefit from being part of a wider group of PhD students and post docs working in this area at Exeter, Cardiff and the MetOffice on programmes including C-Cascades (Exeter) and NUTCAT-2050 (Cardiff and MetOffice) and current Defra-funded work to develop a national-scale assessment of erosion in England and Wales (Exeter). In this collaborative environment, the student will build their programme of research on recent advances in understanding of erosion-perturbed SOC dynamics made by the team. Furthermore, the successful candidate will develop the research network, the detailed knowledge and understanding and the interdisciplinary research and collaboration skills that will prepare them for employment across a wide range of the environmental sciences.

Please see for full details and how to apply.

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