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December 14, 2016

How long does it take for recovery of soil processes from excess nitrogen deposition?

How long does it take for recovery of soil processes from excess nitrogen deposition

The past 60 years have seen dramatic changes in the amount of atmospheric pollutants being deposited on semi-natural habitats. Between 1960 and 1990, industrialisation and the intensification of agricultural pollution led to large increases in the deposition of nitrogen (as well as sulphur) leading to acidification and eutrophication. This had a negative impact on plant diversity but also impacted the underlying below ground soil processes.

Since the 1990s and the introduction of clean air policies, the rate of atmospheric deposition of these pollutants has declined and the research question has now become, “are ecosystems able to recover from chronic nitrogen addition and what is the rate of this recovery?” In terms of the recovery from Nitrogen inputs, research has tended to be focussed on above ground plant communities but the recovery of below ground soil biology and its function is relatively little studied. However, understanding the dynamics of the soil in a regime of declining nitrogen input is essential for understanding contrasting responses of above ground communities in different habitats, knowing which restoration methods will improve recovery, and valuing the long-term costs to society of N pollution on ecosystem services.

This PhD offers the opportunity to gain skills and experience in a range of disciplines including soil science, plant ecology and ecosystem services and work with three leading UK institutions in environmental science. The field sites you will work on also include unique long-term resources unavailable anywhere else in the world including the Park Grass Experiment at Rothamsted which is the world’s longest running ecological experiment.

Applicants should hold a minimum of a UK honours Degree at 2:1 level or equivalent in subjects such as environmental science, ecology or biology. A full UK driving license will also be required.

For further details please contact Jon Storkey jonathan.storkey@rothamsted.ac.uk (01582) 938550.