Name: Rose Durcan
Project title: Climate smart grazing to restore tropical soils
Where based: Lancaster University
At undergraduate level, I completed an integrated masters in Biological Sciences with Zoology at the University of Liverpool. During the master’s year of my degree, I completed a research project titled “Bats as hosts of zoonotic disease; do species traits or human activity pose the biggest risks to public health?”. This research focused greatly on the exploitation of natural resources and in turn how it can affect the ecology of a species, which allowed me to develop a keen interest in the impacts of human activity on ecosystems, in particular within the agricultural industry. As a result, I chose to pursue a PhD in which I can further my knowledge of agricultural science, whilst also gaining new skills in soil science.
Soils are increasingly being recognised as important sinks for carbon dioxide, particularly within the world’s grasslands, many of which are overgrazed and severely degraded. Of particular importance are tropical grasslands, which although believed to hold around a third of the world’s soil carbon stocks, are suffering huge losses of soil carbon due to conversion of native to agricultural land in response to agricultural intensification. However, there have been few studies which investigate the effects landscape management on soil carbon stocks within the tropics and many knowledge gaps remain. This research project is focusing on the sequestration of carbon into tropical grasslands, and the management practices which can maximise this. The hypothesis leading to this work, is the key idea that the livestock grazing under certain conditions can promote the accumulation of carbon within the soil through promoting processes such as the stimulation of root growth. Thus the key aim of this project is to collate empirical evidence which can help to identify the agricultural management conditions, whether it be livestock, vegetation or soil, under which tropical grasslands can become carbon sinks and the carbon sequestration potential is maximised.
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