Extreme heatwaves and responses in ecosystem climate gases

Theme: Biodiversity, Ecology & Conservation

Primary Supervisor:

Mark Trimmer

School of Biological and Behavioural Sciences, QMUL

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Secondary Supervisor:

Ozge Eyice

School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, QMUL

Ozge Eyice's Profile Picture

Project Description:

Few can have little doubt that our climate is warming and while the effects of drought, forest fires and extreme weather events are obvious, how key ecosystem services are being altered is less-well understood. Here we seek to understand how the processes that make the potent greenhouse gas methane (CH4 gas is ~80 times more potent as climate gas than CO2 in the short-term) respond to extreme, short-term warming, like what the UK experienced this summer. While you might be broadly familiar with methanogenesis, the microbial process responsible for making methane, you might not appreciate that there are actually multiple variants with different sensitivities to warming. Now we need to understand a, whether or not those variants have the potential to respond rapidly to extremes of warming, to drive-up climate gas emissions, and b, whether there are differential responses among the variants – without a or b, it will be difficult to model future methane emissions. In this project you will receive multidisciplinary training in both bio-geochemical (isotope mass-spectrometry, gas-chromatography) and molecular microbial ecology techniques (q-PCR, RT-qPCR, high-throughput sequencing, metagenomics and stable isotope probing) to quantify rapid, short-term changes in methanogen processes and communities to extreme warming. You will work both in a variety of natural systems (lakes, ponds, wetlands) as well as with the longest running – standing freshwater – climate warming experiment on Earth (Queens Mary’s warmed pond facility in Dorset) to test how the key components of the methane cycle are affected by extreme warming events.

Policy Impact of Research:

COP26 highlighted a growing appreciation of the higher warming potential of CH4 over CO2 – one cut in CH4 is worth ~30 to 80 cuts in CO2. Quantifying how natural sources of CH4 respond to future warming, while we cut anthropogenic sources, will inform how we keep “1.5 alive”.

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