Title: Reconstructing dune ecosystem development: are the effects of climate and atmospheric deposition soil-specific?

Supervisors: Yuki Fujita, Camiel Aggenbach

Short description:

Human-induced environmental changes, such as atmospheric nitrogen deposition and climate change, influence development of natural ecosystems. In water-limited ecosystems, both increased precipitation and elevated atmospheric deposition are likely to increase the speed of vegetation development, as they promote plant growth and accumulation of soil organic matters. However, it remains a challenge to quantify the relative importance of climate and atmospheric deposition, since how these factors influence soil processes (e.g. decomposition) is site-specific, depending on the soil types and biogeochemical conditions. Mechanistic understanding on these soil processes are needed to make robust prediction of ecosystem development in future across diverse soil types.

The aim of this project is to quantify the effects of climate and atmospheric nitrogen deposition on soil development, as well as to examine whether and how the effects are different among different soils. Here we focus on a relatively simple ecosystem, dry dunes, in the Netherlands. By analyzing aerial photos, we identified a number of Dutch dune ecosystems with contrasting age since established. These sites form chronosequences of soil development for >70 years. A model of soil water, soil organic matter and plant growth will be used to simulate the soil development of these dune ecosystems. Inverse modeling will enable to quantify the relative influence of climate and atmospheric deposition in the last decades, as well as to examine which soil parameter is related to the soil sensitivity to climate and atmospheric deposition. Optionally, the model output will be validated with extra field/lab measurements of process rates (e.g. respiration or nitrogen mineralization rates). This internship takes place in KWR Watercycle Research institute. KWR aims at using scientific results for solving practical water management issues and is expert in eco-hydrological modeling.

Location: KWR Watercycle Research Institute (Nieuwegein), fieldwork is optional

Period: can start at any time

Number of students: 1-2

Prerequisites: basic knowledge on plant/soil ecology, experience in (or willingness to learn) ecological/hydrological modeling

Contact / info: yuki.fujita@kwrwater.nl or d.karssenberg@uu.nl