Project proposal details

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Project title
The role of legumes in accelerating carbon capture and ecosystem recovery during reforestation: a case study in Yucatán, Mexico
Contact name
Bonnie Waring
Project based at
Silwood Park (Imperial)
Project description
In tropical forests, a high abundance of nitrogen (N)-fixing legumes has been hypothesized to enhance nutrient availability to the entire forest stand, thereby increasing the amount of CO2 that can be absorbed from the atmosphere as forests (re)grow. However, there are significant uncertainties surrounding the ecological controls on N fixation in early succession, and these knowledge gaps impede the success of reforestation projects. The goal of this project is to assess how the relative abundance of N-fixing legumes affects ecosystem N inputs in the earliest stages of forest regrowth. The results of this study will directly inform reforestation efforts in Central American tropical forests recovering from agricultural abandonment.

This project will leverage a large-scale reforestation experiment operated by Plant for the Planet near Campeche, Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico. The experiment, planted over 16 hectares on an abandoned pasture, is designed to assess how the relative abundance of legumes and the composition of the soil microbial community impact tree survival and growth. Plots are assigned to one of four legume abundance treatments (ranging from 0 to 60% of total stems) and two soil microbiome treatments (trees planted with and without soil inoculum from healthy mature forest). To assess the effects of these treatments on ecosystem N cycling, the MS student will:
1) Quantify the number and mass of root nodules, which are colonized by N-fixing bacteria (rhizobia), on legume trees in each of the experimental plots.
2) Measure changes in soil N cycling (proteolysis, net N mineralization) in rhizosphere soils

The student will have the opportunity to travel to Campeche to conduct measurements; however, Plant for the Planet staff working on site would be able to ship samples to the UK if the coronavirus precludes international travel.
Date uploaded

Project proposal limitations

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Available date limitations
Spring (April-May)
Suitable for
Ecology Evolution and Conservation, Conservation Science, Ecological Applications, Tropical Forest Ecology MRes, Ecosystem and Environmental Change MRes, Taxonomy and Biodiversity [NHM MSc]