Project proposal details
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Pathways of soil organic matter decay in temperate conifer and broadleaved forests
Project based at
Silwood Park (Imperial)
The differences in structure and function between conifer vs. broadleaved forests have large implications for their ability to sequester carbon, support biodiversity, and respond to environmental change. The impact of these tree functional groups on belowground processes is less well understood. In some cases, conifers are found to promote soil carbon sequestration relative to broadleaves, whereas at other sites the opposite trend is found. Identifying the drivers of this variation is critical in order to guide decisions around afforestation/reforestation for the purpose of carbon sequestration and climate change mitigation. To help clarify this major uncertainty, this project will examine the impact of conifer and broadleaved trees on soil biogeochemistry through the lens of microbial extracellular enzymes. Microorganisms produce specific enzymes to break down different forms of organic matter; the relative activities of these enzymes can therefore reveal which compounds are being decomposed in the soil. The student will undertake two analyses:
1) A quantitative literature review focusing on differences in soil extracellular activities in temperate conifer and broadleaved forests
2) A laboratory study in which enzyme activities will be measured in soils collected from conifer and hardwood stands spanning broad environmental gradients across northern Europe
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