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PhD Studentship: Rooting the Northern Forest: Soil and Woodland Dynamics Across Northern England

University of Hull

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Kingston upon Hull
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students, International Students
Funding amount: From £18,622 per annum (22/23 rate)
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 30th November 2023
Closes: 5th January 2024

Supervisors: Dr Jane Bunting, Prof Graham Ferrier, Dr Catia Matos

Enquiries: eei@hull.ac.uk

Project description:

Tree-planting is an important strategy for carbon capture across the globe wherever trees can be grown. Many of these landscapes have been substantially deforested by a mixture of human activity and natural processes, which has in turn altered the soils present, through erosion, weathering and changing land cover and land use.  The history of woodland, and its decline, provides important insights to inform decisions about future land management, but the post-woodland changes in soils properties present additional complications for tree restoration. Tree planting on some denuded soils on carbonate-rich bedrock might lead to initial net carbon release for decades or centuries due to increased breakdown of the bedrock by roots and by the acidity of woodland soil forming processes, until the system matures and bedrock burial along with soil carbon storage shifts the system to net carbon storage.

The soil at a site is the product of the climate, the relief, the substrate, the landcover and biota present, and time since soil formation began, but our understanding of soil formation trajectories is largely based on studies of a few decades or extrapolation from “natural experiments” e.g. glacial retreat time sequences. Pollen analysis datasets enable us to reconstruct past land cover over thousands of years in increasingly quantitative ways (e.g. Bunting et al. 2018; Serge et al. 2023), and recent developments show that plant functional traits can be applied to palaeoecological data to reconstruct major soil properties and their temporal dynamics (e.g. Kunes et al. 2011; Brown et al 2023). This project will combine these approaches to reconstruct the dynamics of both woodland and soil in a case study area, the Northern Forest zone in Northern England - an excellent study area for exploring the long-term trajectories of soils in the temperate deciduous forest zone and the extent to which studying past and present woodland can effectively inform planning for planting new woodlands appropriate for the soils and climates. The proposed Northern Forest region offers potential for effective collaboration and application of findings.

This project will provide students with a full PhD studentship. This consists of:

  • a personal stipend (tax-free allowance that you don’t have to pay back) at Research Council UK (UKRI) rates for 3.5 years
  • university fees
  • generous support for research costs, fieldwork, training and conference travel.

Eligibility:

  • Minimum 2:1 Bachelors’ degree in a field linked to the PhD project. Note that we have recruited successful PhD candidates that changed fields completely. Quite often your skills are more important than specific knowledge that you have.
  • You can apply straight after a Bachelors’ degree, but you will need to show how you are competitive with those with a Masters:
  • Draw on skills you have developed in situations other than your undergraduate project e.g. student work experience, programming etc.

Apply now, by clicking the 'Apply' button, above.

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