REP Project

April 25, 2024

Are sheepfolds hot-spots of greenhouse gas emissions and nutrient enrichment following sheep gathering events?

Photo showing a grassy area with a sheepfold and a close up photo showing evidence of trampling and compaction at the soil surface.

Location: Bangor University

Duration: 7 weeks

Fig. 1 Sheepfold (left) showing evidence of trampling and compaction at the soil surface (right).

Livestock excretal inputs and trampling (causing soil compaction) are known factors that stimulate emissions of the powerful greenhouse gas (GHG) nitrous oxide (N2O) from soil. These factors are compounded within sheepfolds, where large numbers of sheep are periodically held during gathering events. Gathering of Welsh Mountain ewes occurs three times per year, for shearing, tupping and scanning. Other periods where significant numbers of sheep are held in sheepfolds include for dosing of veterinary treatments and ear tagging. These are routine annual tasks which need to be completed under normal flock management. It is hypothesised that sheepfolds are a large point-source of gaseous emission and nutrient enrichment following gathering events. The magnitude and spatial and temporal variability of N2O emissions from sheepfolds, however, has not yet been quantified. Sheepfolds, therefore, represent an unaccounted source of N2O from livestock production systems. If they constitute a large source of emissions, they could be targeted for intervention/mitigation action e.g. via application of nitrification inhibitors, with the overall aim of reducing N2O emissions from such areas and contributing to the agricultural sectors goal of achieving Net Zero.

Within the proposed project a time-series of spatial GHG and soil biogeochemistry sampling campaigns will be completed, before and after a sheep gathering event. The selected student will gain experience of working in a world-leading cutting-edge research facility and gain skills in field work, soil sample preparation, laboratory analysis, basic excel manipulation of data to produce summary statistics and figures and in mapping of resulting data in GIS. The student will receive training and experience in pipette and microtitre plate analysis, alongside standard methodology for many soil quality indicators (e.g. bulk density, moisture content, loss-on-ignition, pH and EC measurements). The student will gain experience of working in a real-world research environment to address a tangible problem with an active team of researchers based in the Ecosystems and Environment Group, within the Environment Centre Wales (ECW). The experiment will continue after the REP placement with two further gathering events happening in October. This will lead to a much larger dataset intended for publication, where GHG emissions from sheepfolds and their controlling variables will be assessed under differing weather conditions (e.g. summer vs. autumn).

To apply

We encourage applications from students from all backgrounds. Please check you meet the eligibility criteria before completing the EDI Form 2024 ; this form is a mandatory part of the application process, but contains ‘prefer not to say’ options for all questions asked.

Once you have completed the online data collection form you will receive an email with the application form and details of how to apply to the supervisor. The application form should be completed and emailed to the lead supervisor along with a reference from your personal tutor.