Effects of soil degradation on soil carbon storage and persistence in forests

Katholieke Universiteit Leuven


July 11, 2021


Effects of soil degradation on soil carbon storage and persistence in


(ref. BAP-2021-447)

Last modification : Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Your work will be part of a fundamental research project funded by FWO and is a collaboration between the universities of Leuven (Prof. K. Vancampenhout, Dr. Judith Schellekens, Prof. B. Muys, Dr. Ellen Desie), Amsterdam (Prof. Boris Jansen) and Vigo (Prof. Maria Briones). You will thus become part of an international, multidisciplinary team of scientists and will have the opportunity to work abroad. You will learn multiple state-of-the-art methods in the field, in the lab and for data analysis.

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Soil carbon storage in conservation areas is an important strategy in European and national climate-change policies. Soil degradation – such as acidification in forests – however may impact carbon persistence in soils. This project aims at establishing the effects of soil degradation on carbon storage in forest soils. You will study the molecular composition of functional soil organic matter fractions of forest soils along a gradient of acidification, to evaluate and quantify how soil degradation levels affect carbon cycle dynamics and persistence mechanisms. More precisely, you will quantify when imminent changes in soil carbon persistence can be expected. Furthermore, you will evaluate the role of soil fauna as a quick-response indicator for these changes. Identifying where and when shifts in soil carbon cycling are likely to occur will help prioritize future soil carbon research and guide the development of better targeted, spatially explicit and efficient climate-smart measures for forest management.


We are looking for a motivated PhD candidate with a Master degree in Earth Sciences, Biology, Environmental Sciences or related disciplines (graduated cum Laude or higher). Experience in soil science, organic geochemistry, soil biology and ecosystem functioning are a plus. The candidates must be proficient in English (written and spoken) and must have an interest in working as a team and in integrating biological and chemical research within natural ecosystems.


Fully funded PhD scolarship for 4 years


For more information please contact Prof. dr. ir. Karen Vancampenhout, tel.: +32 14 72 13 62, mail: karen.vancampenhout@kuleuven.be or Mrs. Judith Schellekens, tel.: +32 14 72 14 74, mail: judith.schellekens@kuleuven.be.

KU Leuven seeks to foster an environment where all talents can flourish, regardless of gender, age, cultural background, nationality or impairments. If you have any questions relating to accessibility or support, please contact us at diversiteit.HR@kuleuven.be.