Project proposal details

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Project title
Manipulation of the soil microbiome to enhance carbon capture in forest restoration
Contact name
Bonnie Waring
Project based at
Silwood Park (Imperial)
Imperial contact email
Project description
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
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]