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Studentship in the Biochar Demonstrator: Impact of Biochar on Soil Health

Area
Engineering

Location
UK Other

Closing Date
Monday 30 September 2024

Reference
ENG181

The Biochar Demonstrator is part of the UK Research and Innovation £31.5M programme in greenhouse gas removal1 to help the UK meet its net zero climate target by 2050. Biochar is a charcoal-like material, produced from heating biomass in the absence of oxygen (pyrolysis). The interdisciplinary Biochar Demonstrator project is addressing the uncertainties concerning the extent and scope of deployment of biochar in the UK2. This is being achieved through implementing the most ambitious and comprehensive demonstration programme to date involving arable, grassland and woodland, with over 150 tonnes of biochar deployed specifically to answer questions regarding its permanence with respect to carbon sequestration and how ecosystem services are affected. To support the research programme, the University of Nottingham has provided funding for the following studentships. 

For biochar deployment onto agricultural land to be regarded as a success, it is imperative that soil biodiversity is not adversely affected, but also that long-term maintenance of associated ecosystem functions is guaranteed. Biochar-mediated changes to soil physicochemistry are likely to influence soil biota; yet data in the literature are confounded by factors such as the type of biochar used, rate of application and geographical location. Little attention has been paid to the effects of biochar on soil biota despite their importance in soil processes and potential for altering the characteristics and mobility (and therefore functionality) of biochar in soil. It is known that the structure and diversity of the below-ground food web regulates plant production and ecosystem resilience, the latter is increasingly important due to climate change; therefore, understanding the effects of biochar application to soils is important. The PhD studentship will map onto the Biochar Demonstrator’s field trials and quantitatively address the effects of biochar application on soil biota and soil physicochemistry. 

Applicants should be expected to obtain either a first- or upper second-class honours degree in the biological sciences and need be eligible for paying home fees. The studentship will provide training opportunities in greenhouse gas removal generally and the broader societal, economic, technical aspects of biochar deployment.

Enquiries should be addressed to Dr. Helen West; helen.west@nottingham.ac.uk

 

1. https://www.ukri.org/news/uk-invests-over-30m-in-large-scale-greenhouse-gas-removal/

2. https://biochardemonstrator.ac.uk/

 

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