PhD: Effect of changing atmospheric pollutants on global wetland methane emissions

 (via FindAPhD)
University of Birmingham
Birmingham, United Kingdom
Position Type: 
Organization Type: 
University/Academia/Research/Think tank
Experience Level: 
Not Specified


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About the Project

The response of the land to global change is an important factor in modulating the overall impact of both greenhouse gases and atmospheric pollutants such as sulphate, nitrogen oxides (NOx) and ozone (O3) concentrations.

Wetland emissions of the greenhouse gas methane (CH4) are expected to feedback on climate change. However there are important interactions between wetland emissions and several key atmospheric pollutants that have been largely omitted from the Earth System modelling of the CH4 cycle. For example, atmospheric sulphate (causing so-called “solar dimming”) and biomass burning aerosols impact on vegetation through the amount of (total and diffuse) radiation reaching the surface, and tropospheric O3 damages plants. These processes impact on vegetation productivity (NPP), and can therefore alter wetland CH4 production by changing the amount of carbon available to methane-generating microbes. Moreover the deposition of sulphur and nitrogen on the land result in other interactions in the wetland soil, which can strongly modulate the amount of methane emitted.

The aim of this project is to answer the following questions:

  • How much have atmospheric pollutants modulated historical wetland CH4 emissions?
  • Can this be used to help constrain the current CH4 wetland budget?
  • To what extent has recovery from past pollution affected the current global CH4 budget?

This work will contribute to the newly developed Met Office capability in fully coupled methane cycling, where the UK Earth System Model has recently been extended so that dynamical wetlands CH4, full stratospheric-tropospheric CH4 chemistry, and CH4 surface deposition are fully interactive.

The JULES land surface scheme describes the main drivers of wetland CH4 emissions: wetland extent, water table depth, temperature and available carbon substrate. The latest version of JULES includes recent improvements in hydrology, including the representation of tropical soils, and groundwater and overbank inundation. The recent discovery of significant CH4 transfer through tropical trees has also been parameterised in JULES. We will also utilise any JULES developments from the NERC Hydro-JULES program that further improve terrestrial water cycle modelling. The latest JULES terrestrial carbon and nitrogen parameterisations will also be used.

How to apply

Applications need to be submitted via the University of Birmingham postgraduate portal by midnight on 11.01.2021. Please first check whether the primary supervisor is within Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, or in Biosciences, and click on the corresponding PhD program on the application page.

This application should include

• a brief cover letter, CV, and the contact details for at least two referees

• a CENTA application form

• the supervisor and title of the project you are applying for under the Research Information section of the application form.

Referee’s will be invited to submit their references once you submit your application, but we strongly encourage applicants to ensure referees are aware of your submission and expecting a reference request from us. Students are also encouraged to visit and explore the additional information available on the CENTA website.