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Soil ecological function in a 163 year grassland experiment

The need to produce healthy and food sustainably is reliant on healthy soil. This is certainly true of grassland ecosystems on which over half of the people of the Earth rely for their livelihoods and wellbeing. Grasslands supply food, fibre, fuel and more to humans globally and are under pressure and management to deliver more. This ‘management’ has resulted in significant and valuable increases in production but has also changed the form and function of the underlying soil. The changes that long-term (>50 years) intensive and extensive management have on grassland soil function and resilience are poorly understood and yet critical for the future. There is a need to gather and analyses information from long-term experiments to develop better theoretical science frameworks that underpin decision in the face of accelerating climate change.

The aim of this PhD research project is to improve understanding of the effects of long-term input management on soil biodiversity, its function and the residence of grasslands to climate stress. Research questions include; 1. How do grassland soil micro/meso/macrofauna respond to long-term differences in managed inputs?, How do differences in soil biology affect critical decomposition processes?, Do differences in biodiversity alter the resilience of soil to climate stress? Research will focus on the long-term Park Grass Experiment located at Rothamsted Research. Training and support will be provided by supervisors and staff at Rothamsted Research and Lancaster University where the student will be registered for their PhD.

Student training will ensure specific research and transferable skills development that include; soil ecology and biogeochemistry, molecular and biological techniques, greenhouse gas sampling and analyses, isotope science, experimental design, statistics, scientific writing, research presentation/publication, project management, financial oversight and review, team working, advanced independent learning, people and time management, networking, international research.

Please make enquiries to Dr. Jon Storkey or Prof. Nick Ostle before making your application.