Please find some information below about a joint PhD project between the University of Queensland and the University of Exeter. More details on the application process can be found at https://scholarships.uq.edu.au/scholarship/quex-phd-scholarships.

Assessment of the restoration of South-East Asian peatlands through sedimentological and palaeoecological analysis

Associate Professor Patrick Moss, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences UQ, Associate Professor Paul Dargusch, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences Exeter, Dr Angela Gallego-Sala, Geography, Professor Dan Charman, Geography.

The tropical peatlands of South East Asia are a significant storehouse of carbon (~69 Gt of carbon and 77% of global peat carbon), however these peatlands have been extensively drained for agricultural activity and as a results of this there has been a dramatic increase in the frequency and intensity of peatland fires. These fires generate significant carbon emissions and generate air pollution that impacts the health of millions of people. Peatland fire hotspots include the Indonesia islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan but also impact the broader South-East Asian archipelago region.

Around thirteen million hectares of peatland has been degraded and the Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG) of Indonesia has been tasked with accelerating the restoration of 2.5 million hectares of priority degraded peat-domes in Sumatra and Kalimantan. This restoration effort will be achieved through the rewetting of the peat-domes through raising groundwater levels through the damming of canals that have been used to drain peatlands.

An important aspect of this restoration effort is an assessment of how the peat soils and associated vegetation are recovering and the provision of targets to provide an appropriate measure of success. A key way that this can be achieved is through some insight into the state of the peatland soils prior to when they were degraded and the peat soils themselves provides the opportunity to achieve this, as they contain a record, through a range of environmental proxies (including pollen, charcoal, testate amoebae, sediment composition and geochemical properties).

This project will investigate peat domes from Kalimantan and Sumatra using high-resolution sedimentological and palaeoecological analysis (i.e. sub-decadal scale) for the last 500 years. This will provide baseline data that will provide a framework for peat restoration, particularly in terms of an assessment of how successful it is (i.e. what are natural levels of plant biodiversity, peat composition and groundwater hydrology), but also how resilient peat swamp forests and soils are to past periods of environmental change (both anthropogenic and natural climatic impacts).

Submit UQ expression of interest form by 26 May 2018