The Wetter the Better? Understanding wet woodland carbon dynamics in the Anthropocene


The Wetter the Better? Understanding wet woodland carbon dynamics in the Anthropocene


Project Description


Dr Scott J. Davidson (University of Plymouth, School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences) – Contact me

Dr Thomas Roland, Geography, Faculty of Environment, Science and Economy, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK

Dr Alice Milner, Department of Geography, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham, UK

Dr Jessie Woodbridge, School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Plymouth, Plymouth, UK


Project background

Globally, peatlands are essential terrestrial carbon stores that can provide nature-based solutions for climate change mitigation. One of the least well-understood types of peatlands in the world are wet woodlands (peatlands with substantial tree cover). Wet woodlands were once a common habitat type across the UK, but after years of disturbance and destruction, only an estimated 50–70,000 ha remain. Despite their scarcity, these ecosystems could be substantial, long-term carbon sinks due to their peat-forming characteristics. However, climate change and increasing development will determine whether these ecosystems become a source of carbon in the future. We are seeking an individual who will i) quantify contemporary carbon dynamics and fluxes, ii) determine past landscape dynamics using paleoenvironmental techniques, iii) link current and future carbon sequestration to ecohydrological variables (i.e., water table depth), and iv) make comparisons to other wetland ecosystems (e.g., tropical peatlands).


The successful applicant will use field and laboratory techniques to measure carbon dynamics at a wet woodland site in Devon, UK. Carbon fluxes will be measured, alongside above and below-ground biomass using forestry techniques. They will also collect detailed ecohydrological data including water table depth and vegetation data. The paleoenvironmental investigation will use peat cores to look at past hydrological conditions and vegetation patterns using testate amoeba and pollen analysis. Measurements will be extrapolated to wider landscapes through pre-existing carbon models.


You will learn a range of highly relevant techniques used in environmental science, including leading field campaigns, technical skills using environmental sensors/data loggers and analysis of big datasets. This project will inform environmental policies and management nationally and you will gain experience of communicating scientific findings to policy and practice organisations. You will join an international network of peatland researchers, produce leading scientific papers and present at international conferences.

Person specification

We are looking for an enthusiastic individual with a degree in a relevant subject (e.g., environmental science, geography, biology); individuals from numerical disciplines are also encouraged to apply. Experience of fieldwork, programming and environmental sensors is desirable.


  • Davidson, S.J., Dazé, E., Byun, E., Hiler, D., Kangur, M., Talbot, J., Finkelstein, S.A. and Strack, M. (2022) The unrecognized importance of carbon stocks and fluxes from swamps in Canada and the USA, Environmental Research Letters,
  • Strack, M., Davidson, S.J., Hirano, T. and Dunn, C. (2022) The potential of peatlands as nature-based climate solutions, Current Climate Change Reports,
  • Davidson, S.J., Strack, M., Bourbonniere, R.A. and Waddington, J.M. (2019) Controls on soil carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) fluxes from a peat swamp vary by hydrogeomorphic setting, Ecohydrology
  • Loisel, J. et al. (including Roland, T.P. and Milner, A.M.) (2021) Expert assessment of future vulnerability of the global peatland carbon sink. Nature Climate Change. 11(1): 70-77
  • Woodbridge, J., Fyfe, R., Smith, D., Pelling, R., de Vareilles, A., Batchelor, R., Bevan, A and Davies, A.L. (2021) What drives biodiversity patterns? Using long-term multi-disciplinary data to discern centennial-scale change. Journal of Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.1356

Key Information

  • This project has been shortlisted for funding by the ARIES NERC DTP and will start on 1st October 2023. The closing date for applications is 23:59 on 11th January 2023.
  • Successful candidates who meet UKRI’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship, which covers fees, stipend (£17,668 p.a. for 2022/23) and research funding. International applicants are eligible for fully-funded ARIES studentships including fees. Please note however that ARIES funding does not cover additional costs associated with relocation to, and living in, the UK.
  • ARIES students benefit from bespoke graduate training and ARIES provides £2,500 to every student for access to external training, travel and conferences, on top of all Research Costs associated with the project. Excellent applicants from quantitative disciplines with limited experience in environmental sciences may be considered for an additional 3-month stipend to take advanced-level courses.
  • ARIES is committed to equality, diversity, widening participation and inclusion in all areas of its operation. We encourage enquiries and applications from all sections of the community regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation and transgender status. Academic qualifications are considered alongside non-academic experience, and our recruitment process considers potential with the same weighting as past experience.
  • All ARIES studentships may be undertaken on a part-time or full-time basis, visa requirements notwithstanding
  • For further information, please contact the supervisor. To apply for this Studentship follow the instructions at the bottom of the page or click the 'apply now' link.
  • ARIES is required by our funders to collect Equality and Diversity Information from all of our applicants. The information you provide will be used solely for monitoring and statistical purposes; it will remain confidential, and will be stored on the UEA sharepoint server. Data will not be shared with those involved in making decisions on the award of Studentships, and will have no influence on the success of your application. It will only be shared outside of this group in an anonymised and aggregated form. You will be ask to complete the form by the University to which you apply.

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