Project proposal details
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Manipulation of the soil microbiome to enhance carbon capture in forest restoration
Project based at
Silwood Park (Imperial)
Reforestation and afforestation are increasingly touted as ‘nature-based solutions’ to climate change: growing forests can draw down atmospheric CO2 concentrations while offering important ecological co-benefits, such as the protection of biodiversity. However, many reforestation efforts are plagued by poor tree survival, especially in the earliest stages of forest regrowth. The goal of this project is to assess a novel, low-cost treatment to enhance tree survival and carbon capture in reforestation: soil microbiome manipulation. All trees are strongly influenced by the soil microbial community, with interactions ranging from mutualistic (in the case of mycorrhizal fungi) to antagonistic (in the case of root pathogens). Early work has shown that inoculation of tree seedlings with soil microbes from mature, healthy forests can enhance their survival and growth. However, theory predicts that this effect may be context-dependent, with outcomes sensitive to the composition of both tree and soil microbial communities.
The MS student will assess the effects of soil microbiome manipulation on tree nutrient uptake in the context of a large-scale reforestation experiment in Wales. Seedling nutrient use is an important early-stage indicator of survival and growth potential. The Wales experiment was designed to quantify the impacts of tree species (conifers vs. native broadleaves) and microbiome inoculation on forest carbon capture. To aid in this effort the student will:
1) Measure tree seedling leaf and root nutrient content in samples from all experimental plots
2) Synthesize these data with existing measurements to calculate plant nutrient uptake and use efficiencies
3) Assess whether variation in seedling nutrient uptake is correlated with the intensity of root mycorrhizal colonization
Project proposal limitations
The project proposer has indicated that there are some limitations to the availability of this project. It may only be available at certain times of year or suit a specific project length. It may also need skills taught to students on a particular course or courses.
Research project proposals are usually part of an active research programme. If supervisors have stated limitations to a proposal, then they are unlikely to have any flexibility. If you are very interested in the topic but have problems with the stated limitations, the supervisor may still be happy to talk to you about other options around the proposal, but you should not expect that any alternative arrangements can be made.
Available date limitations
Ecology Evolution and Conservation, Conservation Science, Ecological Applications, Tropical Forest Ecology MRes, Ecosystem and Environmental Change MRes, Taxonomy and Biodiversity [NHM MSc]