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Hydrological connectivity in peatlands: the impact of planted woodlands on adjacent peatlands


Key facts

Type of research degree
Mastership by Research (including MA by research, MSc by Research, MSc (Eng) by research)
Application deadline
Ongoing deadline
Project start date
Monday 1 May 2023
Country eligibility
UK only
Professor Andrew Baird and Professor Joseph Holden
Additional supervisors
Russell Anderson
School of Geography
<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Summary</h2>

Rationale<br /> During the development of the June 2022 Trees and Peat Guidance supporting the &lsquo;Decision support framework for peatland protection, the establishment of new woodland and re-establishment of existing woodland on peatland in England&rsquo;, a key area lacking evidence was that of hydrological connection between adjacent areas of peatland, which is important in the contexts of setting buffer distances for both woodland creation and future use of existing wooded peatland. This research is aimed at providing evidence that can be used to review and strengthen the guidance.<br /> <br /> Research questions: <br /> <br /> 1. What can published evidence tell us about hydrological connection in peatland? <br /> 2. How far does the hydrological edge effect of woodland on peat (e.g. lowering of the water table and/or subsidence of the ground surface) extend onto adjacent open peatland in a range of topographic situations and for a range of peatland and woodland types?<br /> 3. How might drying of open peatland adjacent to woodland affect decomposition of peat?<br /> <br /> Additional questions addressed by the broader research team involved in the project (but not included in the Masters by Research project) include:<br /> 4. How might drying of open peatland adjacent to woodland impact litter decomposition and composition of the peat/litter invertebrate community?<br /> The project may also provide data for use in modelling peat distribution and depth by Natural England&rsquo;s England Peat Map project.<br />

<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Full description</h2>

<p style="margin-bottom:11px"><strong>Methods:</strong></p> <p>A literature review will be undertaken to address question 1.</p> <p>For questions 2 and 3 a transect approach will be designed and undertaken. Sites will be identified in England where an edge of woodland on deep peat or organo-mineral soil adjoins open peatland. A database of sites potentially suitable for study transects will be developed with potentially 50 transects chosen, taking account of topographic context for hydrological pathways. Surveys of moisture content, peat compaction, vegetation and other variables will be conducted across identified transects. For a selection of sites water table will be measured using dipwells installed across transects.</p> <p>To partly address question 3, and depending on the successful student&rsquo;s interests and skills, it may also be possible to utilise an existing model (DigiBog) to make predictions about how hydrological edge effects from woodlands might impact peat decomposition and growth.</p> <p>The Research Assistant post will involve doing work that comes under the same funding package but is not part of the Masters by Research project. To clearly differentiate between the Masters project and the paid Research Assistant work a list of tasks and activities falling under each role will be drawn up.</p> <p><strong>Outputs:</strong></p> <p>A MSc thesis of 15000-30000 words (typically 15000-20000 in physical geography) will be examined and there will be an oral examination with independent examiners.</p> <p>It is envisaged that the MSc thesis should have publishable material and that this will contribute to submission of an academic journal paper.</p> <p>The Masters thesis will likely be a key part of a final report on the study and the wider project team includes researchers who are authors of the Trees and Peat Guidance and will be able to determine whether the guidance needs to be updated in light of the project&rsquo;s findings.</p> <p><strong>Broader benefits:</strong></p> <p>The student will be part of the School of Geography&rsquo;s research postgraduate team at the University of Leeds and be expected to play an active role in joining River Basin Cluster research group meetings and Peat Club meetings. Most of these will be available online for the student to join if they are based at Roslin. The student will benefit from local supervision from Russell Anderson and broader Forest Research team and facilities at Roslin including vehicle use and field equipment. They will also benefit from direct experience in working with a broad project team at Leeds and Roslin, seeking to undertake high quality peatland science which has an influence over policy.</p> <p><strong>Application:</strong></p> <ul> <li>The project is suitable for someone looking to develop skills in field data collection, hydrological data analyses, report and paper writing, and presenting to a range of audiences.</li> <li>Due to the fees and salary arrangements, this paid research assistant role is only available to applicants who have the right to work in the UK and meet the <a href="">UK Civil Service Nationality Rules</a>: <ul> <li>UK nationals</li> <li>Nationals of&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank" title="">Commonwealth countries</a></li> <li>Nationals of the Republic of Ireland</li> <li>EEA nationals with Settled or Pre-Settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme</li> <li>Relevant EEA or Turkish nationals working in the Civil Service</li> <li>Relevant EEA or Turkish nationals who have built up the right to work in the Civil Service</li> <li>Certain family members of the relevant EU &amp; Turkish nationals</li> </ul> </li> <li>Tuition fees for the Masters by Research at the University of Leeds will only be provided at &lsquo;home student&rsquo; rates for which those eligible includes those ordinarily resident in the UK or Ireland (and have been for the last three full years), and EU nationals with settled status in the UK.</li> <li>You will need to have a valid UK driving licence and some overnight stays near field sites will be required.</li> </ul>

<h2 class="heading">How to apply</h2>

<p>Formal applications for research degree study should be made online through the&nbsp;<a href="">University&#39;s website</a>. Please state clearly in the research information section&nbsp;that the research degree you wish to be considered for is <strong>Hydrological connectivity in peatlands: the impact of planted woodlands on adjacent peatlands</strong> as well as&nbsp;<a href="">Professor Joseph Holden</a> as your proposed supervisor.</p> <p>If English is not your first language, you must provide evidence that you meet the University&#39;s minimum English language requirements (below).</p> <p><em>As an international research-intensive university, we welcome students from all walks of life and from across the world. We foster an inclusive environment where all can flourish and prosper, and we are proud of our strong commitment to student education. Across all Faculties we are dedicated to diversifying our community and we welcome the unique contributions that individuals can bring, and particularly encourage applications from, but not limited to Black, Asian, people who belong to a minority ethnic community, people who identify as LGBT+ and people with disabilities. Applicants will always be selected based on merit and ability.</em></p>

<h2 class="heading heading--sm">Entry requirements</h2>

Applicants to research degree programmes should normally have at least a first class or an upper second class British Bachelors Honours degree (or equivalent) in an appropriate discipline. The criteria for entry for some research degrees may be higher, for example, several faculties, also require a Masters degree. Applicants are advised to check with the relevant School prior to making an application. Applicants who are uncertain about the requirements for a particular research degree are advised to contact the School or Graduate School prior to making an application.

<h2 class="heading heading--sm">English language requirements</h2>

The minimum English language entry requirement for research postgraduate research study is an IELTS of 6.0 overall with at least 5.5 in each component (reading, writing, listening and speaking) or equivalent. The test must be dated within two years of the start date of the course in order to be valid. Some schools and faculties have a higher requirement.

<h2 class="heading">Contact details</h2>

<p>For further information please contact the Faculty of Environment PGR Admissions Team: or Professor Joseph Holden:&nbsp;<a href=""></a></p>

<h3 class="heading heading--sm">Linked research areas</h3>