Feedback mechanisms on soil susceptibility to erosion processes in a changing climate

Lead Research Organisation: Cranfield University
Department Name: School of Water, Energy and Environment


The impacts of climate change on the mechanics of soil degradation processes are largely unknown, yet may profoundly affect soil functions and associated delivery of vital ecosystem services. This PhD research project will use the world-leading experimental facilities at Cranfield University to investigate how projected climate change scenarios will impact on soil aggregate stability and soil erosion.
Climate change is predicted to increase rainfall erosivity and impact soil moisture and temperature through changing cycles of warmer and wetter conditions, and different rainfall regimes. These factors are the prime drivers of physico-chemical aggregate formation and breakdown, and strongly influence the biological community that impacts aggregate stability through the production of extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) and fungal hyphae. Therefore, the aim of this research is to investigate how the predicted effects of climate change will impact soil aggregate stability, erodibility and erosion rates.
In an innovative and unique experimental programme, the student will use the facilities in Cranfield University's rainfall simulation laboratory and controlled environmental chambers to subject soils to simulated future climate change scenarios. She will be responsible for all stages of the study design and implementation: designing an experimental study, collecting soils from the field, incubating them in environmental chambers, quantifying the biological and physico-chemical properties of the soil, quantifying erosion rates by rainfall simulation, and analysing environmental data using multivariate statistics.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
NE/M009106/1 01/10/2015 30/09/2023
1818589 Studentship NE/M009106/1 03/10/2016 02/10/2020 Emily Dowdeswell-Downey
Description Training of MSc student
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact The PhD student assisted the supervision of an international MSc student from Africa. The MSc student's project was related to the PhD studentship, and the PhD student was able to provide specific guidance on the design of experiments, training on laboratory techniques, and advice on statistical analyses. The MSc student has returned to her home country with additional skills and knowledge acquired as part of this project.