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January 16, 2017

Logging impacts on forest soil biodiversity and function in Borneo

Logging impacts on forest soil biodiversity and function in Borneo 400 x 400 px

Global change including population driven land use change is putting tropical forests under pressure. Changes in forest plant and soil biodiversity as a result of logging and clearance for oil palm cultivation are altering nutrient cycling, greenhouse gas emissions and consequent feedbacks to climate. It is uncertain how these changes will affect key ecosystem functions that are underpinned by soil.

The aim of this PhD is, therefore, to examine the impacts of human disturbance of forest ecosystems (clearance and logging intensity) on the resistance and resilience of soil biodiversity and biogeochemical function. Specifically, research will test whether there is soil microbial ‘redundancy’ in the context of large scale tropical forest land use change.

The student will be expected to spend time in the field in Borneo to undertake core research for their PhD research and spend at least 20 days as an ‘intern’ with consortium collaborators in Malaysia. In this work the student will characterise and quantify the functional traits of soil and microbes across different land-use types in order to better understand how they influence biogeochemical cycling. Soil samples will be obtained from sites across Malaysian Borneo. Core activities include (i) soil survey across the forest disturbance gradients for soil physiochemical properties and microbial community metrics to test for resistance and resilience; and (ii) in and ex situ controlled experiments to test for ‘redundancy’ of soil microbial functionality (climate and resource experiments).

The successful student will be registered at Lancaster University and co-supervised by Nick Ostle (Lancaster University), Rob Griffiths, Niall McNamara, Jeanette Whitaker (NERC CEH), with Charles Variappan, in Malaysia. A comprehensive training programme will be provided by both Lancaster University and CEH (see ENVISION DTP). The student will also receive in-house training at CEH Lancaster in soil biogeochemistry and soil microbial techniques detailed above.

Eligibility: Applicants should hold a minimum of a UK Honours Degree at 2:1 level or equivalent in subjects such as Environmental Science, Ecology, Natural Sciences, Biological Sciences.

For further details please contact Professor Nick Ostle n.ostle@lancaster.ac.uk