We are looking for an enthusiastic and self-motivated PhD candidate with a background in ecology and/or environmental sciences and an interest in the relations between plant diversity, ecosystem carbon dynamics, climate change and land-use.
The PhD position is part of the new research program Biodiversity, fire and carbon storage in Afromontane grasslands financed by the Dutch Research Council NWO in the form of a Vidi grant to Dr. Mariska te Beest. The overall objective of this program is to better understand the importance of biodiversity for carbon storage in Afromontane grasslands and the ways ongoing climate and land‐use changes, including changes in fire regimes, affect biodiversity-carbon relations. A detailed project description is available upon request.
This PhD position will be based at Utrecht University, The Netherlands and executed in close collaboration with the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON) in Pietermaritzburg. The position includes extensive fieldwork in South Africa.
A second PhD position is available within the same program. See here for more information.
Climate change and biodiversity loss are two of the greatest challenges of our time and they are intricately linked. While climate change is affecting ecosystems and eroding biodiversity, biodiversity may importantly mitigate climate change by shaping the carbon storage potential of ecosystems.
In this project, you will use ecological field experiments and natural contrasts to study the interlinkages between biodiversity, fire and carbon storage in ancient Afromontane grasslands. You will be working at the long-term ecological research (LTER) site at Cathedral Peak in the Drakensberg Mountains, South Africa. You will have access to a 40-year fire manipulation experiment where, in 2017, we were among the first to establish passive open-top warming chambers in an African ecosystem to study the effect of climate warming on grassland vegetation.
Key questions of the project include (1) how do climate warming and fire interactively affect productivity‐diversity relationships and plant functional trait diversity and (2) how do these interlinkages affect soil carbon storage? The project ultimately aims to develop knowledge to guide initiatives to preserve and restore biodiverse and climate-resilient grasslands.
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