project . 2019 - 2023 . On going

Breaking down the effect of UV light on litter decomposition; a study of carbon cycling along a tropical forest humidity gradient

UK Research and Innovation
Funder: UK Research and InnovationProject code: 2279209
Funded under: NERC
Status: On going
30 Sep 2019 (Started) 30 Mar 2023 (Ending)

Tropical forests store and cycle impressive amounts of carbon. They only comprise of 12% of our planet's land surface area, but store 25-40% of the terrestrial carbon, while accounting for about 30% of the total terrestrial net primary productivity. With many tropical forests becoming both drier and warmer due to global change, it has become fundamental to understand how they will respond to such changes. Litter decomposition may hold the key to some of this knowledge, as it constitutes one of the largest carbon fluxes, while its main drivers now thought to be vulnerable to global change. Understanding interactions between climate, light and decomposition is crucial to improve climate-models, and predict how tropical forest biogeochemical cycles will respond to global change. Here we propose a novel research approach combining observational studies along a tropical forest humidity gradient, with controlled common garden and growth chamber experiments. Using advanced analytical techniques, we aim to accurately determine how climate mediates litter decomposition in tropical forests and estimate to what extent it contributes to global carbon-cycling. A multidisciplinary training programme is central to this studentship and the candidate will develop skills in a range of experimental and observational ecological methods, as well as laboratory techniques and advanced statistical analyses and modelling. As this project has the potential to lead several high impact publications it will be a formidable opportunity to develop a research career. All field components of this studentship will be carried out at and in collaboration with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama, with additional controlled experiments and specialised laboratory analyses of litter samples at Bangor University.

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