Dr Scott Davidson, School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Plymouth
Dr Jennifer Rowntree, School of Biological and Marine Sciences, University of Plymouth
Professor Brian Reid, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia
Sustainably intensifying agricultural production and meeting UK targets for net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions requires a detailed understanding of GHG sources and sinks. In the UK, drainage of lowland peatlands (waterlogged, high carbon soils) to sustain highly productive agriculture is important for UK food security, but drying peatland causes peat degradation. While intact peatlands are long-term carbon stores they also emit GHGs. Drained peatlands, for different reasons are also GHG sources (Evans et al., 2022). This project aims to unravel the complex trade-offs linked to peatland management and sustainable food production.
To achieve this, you will quantify the influence of rapid transition to regenerative farming principles on exemplar high carbon peat soils (Cambridgeshire Fens) on soils properties, GHGs and yields. Using regenerative farming trials, led by G’s Fresh Ltd, as an experimental living lab, you will develop and apply novel tools to track change in soil biology, chemistry and physical states before, during and after transition. With specific attention to carbon, your research will provide important evidence to inform future adoption and debates on the role of regenerative methods to leverage green financing (Keenor et al., 2021).
Training will be provided in field survey and sampling techniques, experimental design, statistics and data manipulation/presentation. In terms of analytical skills, soil microbial assessment (e.g. microbial biomass, metabarcoding; Craig et al., 2021) and assessments of soil biological activity (e.g. enzyme assays), quantification of GHG flux (Davidson et al., 2023), soil nutrient and carbon assessment including evaluation of sensor (near infra red spectroscopy and proximal gamma spectrometry) technology as rapid on-site screening tools (Taylor et al., 2023).
Applicants should hold a BSc in a suitable discipline to develop required field and laboratory activities e.g., environmental sciences, geography, biology. A proven commitment to evaluating potential for land management innovation to support sustainability goals will be an advantage.