Cardiff University President's Research Scholarship: Adjustments in floodplain nitrogen loading due to climate change in the Bornean tropical rainforest (Climate Change: confronting the four 'grand challenges') (PhD Studentship)
Reference Number: R937
Key Studentship Information
Project title: Adjustments in floodplain nitrogen loading due to climate change in the Bornean tropical rainforest
Floodplains are host to some of the most bio-diverse and productive habitats on the planet, providing over £2.5 trillion of ecosystem services each year. From a global perspective, the most important function of natural floodplains is the sequestration of atmospheric carbon, with the tropics providing the largest sink. Nitrogen is an important limiting nutrient to tropical floodplain rainforests. Given the ever-increasing pressures of afforestation, it is imperative that we understand the controls on nitrogen loading to the natural riparian corridor, especially as the frequency and magnitude of floods will be affected by climate change. This project will utilise one of the oldest floodplain rainforests to examine the controls on nitrogen loading and to assess for potential adjustments in carbon sequestration.
Sediment cores will be collected from the rainforest floodplain of the Kinabatangan River in Sabah, Borneo. The cores will undergo radiometric analysis to identify discrete flood events, which will allow us to construct a historical record of flood severity through time. Individual flood deposits will then be analysed for total organic content, nitrate and ammonium concentrations, stable nitrogen isotopes, and soil carbon content. The data will provide a time series map of soil nitrogen and carbon content as a function of flooding, which will be used to build a numerical model that predicts nutrient loading during floods of varying magnitude. IPCC climate projections for Borneo will be incorporated into the numerical model to allow predictions of nutrient loading in the future.
The research stems directly from the successful track records of the supervisors. Bruford and Goosens are ecologists with expertise of the Kinabatangan River rainforest. They will train the student in field techniques and will supervise all field data analysis. Neubauer is an ecologist with expertise in nutrient dynamics in wetland environments. He will assist in the design of the fieldwork plan and laboratory investigation. Constantine and Hales are geomorphologists with experience in a range of floodplain environments and modelling strategies. They will train the PhD in fieldwork, GIS, and modelling techniques. To improve professional skills, the PhD will be expected to present research findings at international science conferences and will utilise the Research Students’ Skills Development Programme of Cardiff University.
The tropical rainforest of the Kinabatangan River is host to a number of endangered species, including the Bornean orang-utan and the Sumatran rhinoceros. Sustainable populations of these species and others depend upon maintaining a naturally functioning floodplain, and so, in concert with the uncertain consequences of climate change, the conversion of rainforest into oil palm plantations is causing great concern. This research will do much to explain how the natural flow regime of the Kinabatangan River ensures the viability of its tropical forest habitat as well as its functioning as an important carbon sink. In particular, the numerical model developed by the project will prove useful in defining the flows required to supply limiting nutrients to critical riparian habitat.
Supervisors: Dr José Constantine, Dr TC Hales, Professor Mike Bruford (Cardiff School of Biosciences), Scott Neubauer (Virginia Commonwealth University), and Dr Benoît Goossens (Cardiff School of Biosciences)
Start date: October 2013
This is a Cardiff University President's Research Scholarship. The award includes full UK/EU tuition fees plus a doctoral stipend matching UK Research Council National Minimum (£13,590 p.a. for 2012/13, updated each year).
Academic Criteria: Applicants must have a First Class Honours degree or a 2.1 plus a postgraduate Masters degree (or their equivalents).
Residency: The award is open to all UK/EU students without further restriction.
How to Apply
Prospective students should submit an application via the University's online application service for the programme in Earth Surface Processes, October 2013 start.
A CV and Covering Letter should be submitted to Christine Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org
Application Deadline: 1 February 2013
For further information please contact Christine Williams:
Telephone no: +44 (0)29 208 75772