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Cambridge NERC Doctoral Training Partnerships

Graduate Research Opportunities

Supervisors: Andrew Tanentzap (Plant Sciences) and Erik Emilson (Natural Resources Canada

Importance of the area of research:

Forests support the functioning and health of aquatic ecosystems but are under increasing pressure from a growing demand for wood products.  Best management practices (BMPs) adopted by industry to meet the growing wood product demand in a more sustainable way remain to be comprehensively assessed.  BMPs were designed to prevent sediment inputs and little is known about their effectiveness in mitigating other harvest-related impacts on freshwater ecosystems (Warrington et al. 2017). The accelerated loss of base cations (e.g.: Ca and K) from disruptions to forest soils is of particular concern, as it may exacerbate the past effects of acid rain, with marked impacts on aquatic biota (Jeziorski et al. 2015).

Project summary:

The aim of this project is to assess the effectiveness of best management practices (BMPs) in preventing cation and nutrient loss to freshwater ecosystems. This will involve a synthetic review of the effectiveness of existing BMPs based on a Bayesian risk assessment approach described in Creed et al. (2016).  The assessment will be followed by field-based validation with water samples collected from streams pre- and post- harvest and with and without BMPs.  Natural variability in nutrient and cation concentration will be compared to that induced by harvest and management practice.  The outcomes of this study will provide recommendations for new approaches or adaptations of existing BMPs.  The student will also design an experiment to test the implications of changes in cation concentration to carbon cycling and/or food webs in stream ecosystems based on their interest and expertise.

What the student will do:

The student will design and execute the Bayesian risk assessment of the likelihood of best management practices BMPs to reduce nutrient and cation release to streams. This will involve a meta-analysis of existing literature and expert opinion from industry and government stakeholders identified by the CASE partner Natural Resources Canada (NRCan).  They will also collate information on regional variability in soil types and hydrology to calibrate the analysis.  The student will also design a field-validation regime and collect water samples and stream flow data from industry forests in Canada with logistical support from NRCan.  These data will be used to validate and/or calibrate the likelihood models.  Samples will be analysed for cation, nutrient, and metal concentrations at a NRCan laboratory.  The student will also design an experiment to test the implications of changes in cation concentration to carbon cycling and/or food webs in stream ecosystems alongside their supervisory team.

Please contact the lead supervisor directly for further information relating to what the successful applicant will be expected to do, training to be provided, and any specific educational background requirements.


Warrington, B.M., Aust, W.M., Barrett, S.M., Ford, W.M., Dolloff, C.A., Schilling, E.B., Wigley T.B., & Bolding, M.C. 2017. Forestry best management practices relationships with aquatic and riparian fauna: a review. Forests, vol. 8, pp. 331. DOI: 10.3390/f8090331

Jeziorski, A., Tanentzap, A.,J., Yan, N.D., Paterson, A.M., Palmer, M.E., Korosi, J.B., Rusak, J.A., Arts, M.T., Keller, W., Ingram, R., Cairns, A., & Smol, J.P. 2015. The jellification of north temperate lakes. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, vol. 282, pp. 20142449. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2014.2449.

Creed, I.F., Cormier, R., Laurent, K.L., Accatino, F., Igras, J., Henley, P., Friedman, K.B., Johnson, L.B., Crossman, J., Dillon, P.J., & Trick, C.G. 2016. Formal integration of science and management systems needed to achieve thriving and prosperous Great Lakes. Bioscience, vol. 66, pp. 408-418. DOI: 10.1093/biosci/biw030

Follow this link to find out about applying for this project.

Other projects available from the Lead Supervisor can be viewed here.

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