Nottingham, United Kingdom

British Geological Survey

www.bgs.uk
Nottingham, United Kingdom

The British Geological Survey is a partly publicly funded body which aims to advance geoscientific knowledge of the United Kingdom landmass and its continental shelf by means of systematic surveying, monitoring and research. The BGS headquarters are in Keyworth, Nottinghamshire, but other centres are located in Edinburgh, Wallingford, Cardiff and London. The current motto of the BGS is: Applied Geoscience for our changing earth. Wikipedia.


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Grant
Agency: GTR | Branch: NERC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 878.53K | Year: 2016

About 12.6% of Indian land mass is prone to landslides, with the Himalaya and Western Ghats regions particularly prone due to climate, geomorphology & geology. Rainfall and earthquakes are the main triggers of these landslides. Poor land management practices (e.g., deforestation, slash & burn cultivation, haphazard mining and heavy tilling in agriculture), coupled with increased development and poor settlement location have increased vulnerability of communities in these areas to landslides. The impact of landslides on people, business, culture and heritage can be considerable and wide-ranging, including fatalities, loss of agricultural land and infrastructure, and damage to ecosystems. To build resilience to landslides in these vulnerable communities (a key aim of SHEAR), a root and branch evaluation of human interactions with landslide prone environments, and improved knowledge of the physical processes is required. Developing approaches to integrate weather, landscape and social-dynamic models is fundamental to building an effective hydrologically-controlled landslide early warning system (EWS). LANDSLIP will develop new insights by building on existing scientific research in India, the UK and Italy and using interdisciplinary methodologies and perspectives. Due to complex environmental conditions and triggering processes that cause landslides, the extent and variability of spatial & temporal scales means that landslides are inherently difficult to forecast and manage at site, slope, catchment and regional spatial scales and hourly to decadal temporal scales. LANDSLIP will address this by doing research to understand weather regimes (previously not done in S Asia) and rainfall characteristics that trigger landslides and geomorphological/geological control factors that can enhance landslide susceptibility. Knowledge of where and when historic landslides have occurred and under what environmental conditions, will also be collated and analysed, drawing on extensive consortium experience of developing and managing landslide inventories and impact libraries. An innovative challenge we address in LANDSLIP is how slope and site specific EWS inform wider catchment to national landslide EWS and how early warning information from medium-range forecasts supplement and enhance short-term (day to a week) forecasting approaches. A further innovative aspect of LANDSLIP is improving EWS effectiveness through integrating social dynamics information gathered from both Human (i.e. social media) and physical sensors (remote sensing and pre-existing site-specific wireless networks deployed by AMRITA). LANDSLIP will develop ways of utilising these sources of information to supplement existing inventories and enhance EW information for decision makers. Our programme will operate in partnership with decision makers, in public and private sectors, academics and non-for profit agencies to achieve an overarching aim of contributing to better landslide risk assessment and early warning, in a multi-hazard framework in India, aiming to increase resilience and reduce loss. Tools and services, focussed on a web map interface, will be developed in conjunction with local scientists, decision makers and communities to improve resilience to hydrologically-controlled landslides in India, specifically using two pilot study areas; Darjeeling-East Sikkim in the Himalaya and Nilgiris in the Western Ghats. We will ensure knowledge transfer to other vulnerable communities by assessing how they can be applied, remotely, in Afghanistan. Through advances in interdisciplinary science and application in practise, the collective ambition of this consortium is to contribute to better landslide risk assessment and early warning in a multi-hazard framework, and, by working with communities, better preparedness for hydrologically controlled landslides and related hazards on a slope to regional spatial scale and daily to seasonal temporal scale.


Grant
Agency: GTR | Branch: NERC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 454.54K | Year: 2016

The BLUE-coast consortium addresses NERC highlight topic B, Coastal morphology: coastal sediment budgets and their role in coastal recovery. This project will adopt a holistic and multidisciplinary approach, combining the expertise of biologists, coastal engineers, geologists, geomorphologists and oceanographers with complementary experimental (field and laboratory) and numerical skills, to understand what processes control the coastal system dynamics and answer the relevant scientific questions. BLUE-coast will explicitly address uncertainties in the prediction of medium-term (years) and long -term (decadal and longer) regional sediment budgets and better understand morphological change and how the coast recovers after sequences of events, such as storms by: (i) improving representation of both transportable and source material within the coastal zone within models; (ii) establishing how transportable material is mediated by the ecological system using exemplar habitats representative of the UK coastal zone; (iii) assessing sensitivities of this mixed-sediment physical and biological system to possible changes in external forcing, including the combined impact of multiple variables and sequences of events, with the goal of understanding the internal dynamics of the system (e.g. nonlinearities, critical thresholds, tipping points, precursors and antecedent conditions) in parallel with assessments of behavioural uncertainties, and (iv) reduce uncertainties in medium to long -term prediction of regional sediment budgets and morphological change. Project Overview: the scope of the Highlight Topic sets a requirement for quantitative knowledge on both physical and biological dynamic coastal processes in order to improve hydrodynamic model predictions of regional sediment budgets and morphological change. To deliver an integrated, holistic and cost effective response, our main activities will combine (i) a detailed study of representative shelf sea landscapes that spans the full variety of organism-sediment conditions typically observed in temperate coasts, with (ii) in situ validation studies of key processes, and (iii) manipulative laboratory and field experiments aimed at unambiguously identifying causal relationships and establishing generality, and (iv) integration of new understanding of controls and effects on coastal morphodynamics at regional scales and under environmental forcing. By undertaking a substantial element of in situ observation and process studies, we will directly quantify the effect of antecedent conditions on coastal erosion and recovery, the effect of biota on mediating sediment fluxes and pathways and the effect of event sequencing on coastal erosion and recovery, across a range of geographically significant sediment habitats. These data will act as calibration and validation datasets for existing and innovative numerical models that will be able to simulate the coastal morphological consequences of key biological and physical drivers, alone and in combination. We will gain mechanistic understanding and achieve generality by performing carefully controlled experiments, generating different flow regimes using flumes, tracking changes during natural events using state-of-the-art field measurement technology and, in the laboratory, using intact sediments and sediment communities exposed to anticipated future conditions (warming, ocean acidification, nutrient loading). As it is not feasible to quantify all the relevant morphodynamic processes at high spatial resolution across the entire UK coast, our approach is to address the principal objectives through 4 interdisciplinary workpackages that follow a logical progression of scientific themes.


Grant
Agency: GTR | Branch: NERC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 388.41K | Year: 2016

We propose a large-scale, multi-faceted, international programme of research on the functioning of the Earth system at a key juncture in its history - the Early Jurassic. At that time the planet was subject to distinctive tectonic, magmatic, and solar system orbital forcing, and fundamental aspects of the modern biosphere were becoming established in the aftermath of the end-Permian and end-Triassic mass extinctions. Breakup of the supercontinent Pangaea was accompanied by creation of seaways, emplacement of large igneous provinces, and occurrence of biogeochemical disturbances, including the largest magnitude perturbation of the carbon-cycle in the last 200 Myr, at the same time as oceans became oxygen deficient. Continued environmental perturbation played a role in the recovery from the end-Triassic mass extinction, in the rise of modern phytoplankton, in preventing recovery of the pre-existing marine fauna, and in catalysing a Mesozoic Marine Revolution. However, existing knowledge is based on scattered and discontinuous stratigraphic datasets, meaning that correlation errors (i.e. mismatch between datasets from different locations) confound attempts to infer temporal trends and causal relationships, leaving us without a quantitative process-based understanding of Early Jurassic Earth system dynamics. This proposal aims to address this fundamental gap in knowledge via a combined observational and modelling approach, based on a stratigraphic master record accurately pinned to a robust geological timescale, integrated with an accurate palaeoclimatic, palaeoceanographic and biogeochemical modelling framework. The project has already received $1.5M from the International Continental Drilling Programme towards drilling a deep borehole at Mochras, West Wales, to recover a new 1.3-km-long core, representing an exceptionally expanded and complete 27 My sedimentary archive of Early Jurassic Earth history. This core will allow investigation of the Earth system at a scale and resolution hitherto only attempted for the last 65 million years (i.e. archive sedimentation rate = 5 cm/ky or 20 y/mm). We will use the new record together with existing data and an integrative modelling approach to produce a step-change in understanding of Jurassic time scale and Earth system dynamics. In addition to order of magnitude improvements in timescale precision, we will: distinguish astronomically forced from non-astronomically forced changes in the palaeoenvironment; use coupled atmosphere-ocean general circulation models to understand controls on the climate system and ocean circulation regime; understand the history of relationships between astronomically forced cyclic variation in environmental parameters at timescales ranging from 20 kyr to 8 Myr, and link to specific aspects of forcing relating to solar energy received; use estimated rates and timing of environmental change to test postulated forcing mechanisms, especially from known geological events; constrain the sequence of triggers and feedbacks that control the initiation, evolution, and recovery from the carbon cycle perturbation events, and; use Earth system models to test hypotheses for the origins icehouse conditions. Thirty six project partners from 13 countries substantially augment and extend the UK-based research


Grant
Agency: GTR | Branch: EPSRC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 188.29K | Year: 2017

Recent natural disasters in Malaysia, such as the wide-spread floods in 2014/15 and the flash flooding of Kuala Lumpur in 2007, have revealed that improvements are required in the prediction of damaging natural hazards and in the capacity to manage the associated risks and consequences. Appropriate to the theme of future cities, the focus of this project is the prediction and management of physical risks relevant to Kuala Lumpur, which is the Malaysian capital and the most populated city in Malaysia with around 8 million inhabitants. The particular hazards to be targeted in this project, which are common in Kuala Lumpur, are floods, landslides, sinkholes, strong winds, urban heat and air pollution. A consortium of 16 research and business partners from the UK and Malaysia has been assembled for this project. The basic strategy is to adapt and combine existing technologies to enhance hazard assessment and develop the ability to forecast, with main objective to develop a prototype multi-hazard information platform suitable for communicating risks to geophysical and atmospheric hazards. The primary beneficiaries will be risk managers and decision-makers in Malaysian local government and the insurance sector. The project objectives relate to the Malaysian Science to Action initiative, which has an aim of mobilising science for societal well-being. The University of Cambridge (UoC) is the lead UK and academic partner in the project and its main role is to lead the meteorological forecasting package. The British Geological Survey will co-lead the Geophysical hazards phase of the project working specifically on the geophysical hazard modelling (landslides and sinkholes) and co-develop a platform for managing and communicating multi-hazard forecasts in a changing climate for Greater Kuala Lumpur city region. Benefits of the project will include: Improved information regarding the risks of occurrence of geophysical and atmospheric hazards, enabling Malaysian local authorities to make better contingency plans to mitigate the effects of geophysical and atmospheric hazards, which will provide economic benefits and improve the quality of life for Malaysian citizens. Improved information about geophysical hazards will aid the further development of insurance services in Malaysia. The multi-hazard platform developed for Greater Kuala Lumpur city region will have relevance to cities elsewhere in Malaysia and in the wider south-east Asian region. Where the commercial development of such systems, could benefit both the commercial sector and future urban management.


Grant
Agency: GTR | Branch: NERC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 52.09K | Year: 2017

Unfortunately the recent sinkhole in Magdalen Road, Ripon (10 November 2016) was not the first to affect Ripon. The impact of the dissolution of the buried gypsum is notorious (Cooper 1998) in this area. It results from the generation of drop-out sinkholes with a potential to cause significant damage to buildings and infrastructure. The geology beneath Ripon comprises Permian marls, dolomitised limestones and gypsum, capped by approximately 10 m of glacial deposits. Dissolution of the soluble gypsum at depth results in buried voids that propagate to the surface as sinkholes. The detail of how the sinkholes develop is not fully understood (size and position of the dissolutional openings that develop in the gypsum). This is because the cavities are inaccessible and water filled. Once a sinkhole develops the ground adjacent to it is unstable; access to the sinkhole is not possible, and any intrusive investigation (such as boreholes) have the potential to further destabilise the ground. Consequently, the sinkholes are usually remediated to make them safe as soon as possible. Historically, microgravity geophysical techniques have been demonstrated to be the preferred technique for detecting buried cavities and disturbed ground associated with the dissolution. Here we propose to use a range of geophysical techniques to monitor the remediation (infilling of the cavity) and record changes to the condition of the ground throughout the depth of the sinkhole in order to learn more about its geometry and depth and hence the likely formational processes. In parallel we propose to use the borehole records held by the National Geoscience Data Centre to generate a 3d geological of the Ripon area and attribute this with the geometry of the sinkhole and the associated zone of disturbance in order to further the understanding of the geological context of the sinkhole, i.e. in relation to the distribution of the host sediments and the groundwater table. As well as contributing to the process understanding, this approach will (i) allow the comparison of a range of geophysical techniques (micro-gravity, electrical resistivity and seismic) to assess their viability for void detection and remediation monitoring, which will help inform guidance for any subsequent events and (ii) it will feed back to inform investigation requirements for proposals for any future developments.


Grant
Agency: GTR | Branch: NERC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 251.48K | Year: 2016

The developing drought in Ethiopia is linked to the ongoing strong 2015-2016 El Niño event and is leading to widespread food and water insecurity in the region, particularly for the large numbers of people living in remote rural areas. Whilst there is a well-developed national and international response to food insecurity, the failure of local springs and wells, the primary source of water in these areas, has caught many off guard, with growing evidence that migration is driven by water shortage. Research in east Africa during and since the last major El Niño drought in the late 1997/98, indicates that access to reliable groundwater sources is a major contributory factor to improving livelihood resilience, particularly of the poorest. This current El Niño-related drought in Ethiopia, provides an important research opportunity to: (i) gather robust evidence of the behaviour under stress of shallow groundwater sources (mountain springs, valley springs, wells, boreholes); (ii) monitor the timing, magnitude and contamination issues associated with recovery; and (iii) assess the coping strategies developed by family groups and communities as water points fail. Methods developed since the last major El Niño event make this possible, for example: robust inexpensive sensors for continuously measuring groundwater levels, novel rapid methods for indicating pathogen contamination and a new suite of groundwater residence time indicators. With this new evidence it will be possible to ensure vulnerable communities become more resilient to future droughts by: identifying resilient designs of water point; targeting mapping efforts to areas to identify vulnerable areas, and contributing to the design of early warning systems. The research brings together an experienced team from BGS, ODI, and AAU, all of whom are currently working in Ethiopia, supported by partners in the meteorological department at the University of Reading and various implementation partners in Ethiopia.


Grant
Agency: GTR | Branch: NERC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 317.05K | Year: 2016

Economic development and population growth in Peninsular India have resulted in rapid changes to land-use, land-management and water demand which together are seriously impacting and degrading water resources. Urbanization, deforestation, agricultural intensification, shifts between irrigated agriculture and rain-fed crops, increased groundwater use, and the proliferation of small-scale surface water storage interventions, such as farm-level bunds (usually to conserve soil moisture in fields) and check-dams (to replenish local aquifers) all have contributed to significant changes in the hydrological functioning of catchments. The impact of such changes and interventions on local hydrological processes, such as streamflow, groundwater recharge and evapotranspiration, are poorly constrained, and our understanding of how these diverse local changes cumulatively impact water availability at the broader basin-scale is very limited. Focussing on the highly contentious inter-state Cauvery River basin (with an area of c.80,000 km2, the Cauvery is one of Indias largest river basins) our study addresses the key scientific challenge of representing the many local, small-scale interventions in Peninsular India at larger scales. Using observations from established experimental catchments in both rural and urban settings, the project will first explore how changes in land-use, land-cover, irrigation practices and small-scale water management interventions locally affect hydrological processes. In tandem we will then develop novel upscaling methods to represent the improved process-understanding in models at the larger sub-basin (Kabini, ~10,000 km2) and basin (Cauvery) scales. In so doing, the project will demonstrate the capability to generically represent the cumulative impact of abundant small-scale changes in basin-wide integrated water resources management models. The impact of local-scale interventions will further be modelled alongside projections of population growth, climate- and land-use-change and water demand to assess future impacts on water security across the basin. Key stakeholders are involved throughout the different stages of the project to ensure that project outputs reflect their interests and concerns and provide useful input to their decision making.


Grant
Agency: GTR | Branch: NERC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 310.75K | Year: 2017

Charles Darwins great dilemma was why complex life in the form of fossil animals appear so abruptly in rocks around 520 million years ago (Ma), in what is widely known as the Cambrian explosion. During recent decades, exceptionally preserved animal fossils have been found throughout the Cambrian Period, which began 20 million years earlier, and arguably even through the entire, preceding Ediacaran Period, which directly followed the worldwide Snowball Earth glaciations (~715 - 635 Ma). Most of these exceptional deposits were discovered in South China, which possesses the best preserved and dated geological record of the marine environment for this time. In this genuinely collaborative UK-China project, we propose to use the South China rock archives to construct a much higher resolution, four-dimensional (temporal-spatial) picture of the evolutionary history of the earliest animals and their environment. Towards this endeavour, our group combines complementary expertise on both the UK and Chinese research teams in: 1) geochronology - the dating of rocks; 2) geochemistry - for reconstructing nutrient and the coupled biogeochemical cycle (O and C); 3) phylogenomics - for making a genetically-based tree of life to compare with, and fill gaps in the fossil records; and finally 4) mathematical modelling, which will enable us to capture geological information, in such a way as to test key hypotheses about the effects of animal evolution on environmental stability. Our project aims to address three central scientific questions: 1) How did the coupled biogeochemical cycles of C, O, N, P and S change during these evolutionary radiations?; 2) Did environmental factors, such as oxygen levels, rather than biological drivers, such as the emergence of specific animal traits, determine the trajectory of evolutionary change?; and 3) Did the rise of animals increase the biospheres resilience against perturbations? This last question has relevance to todays biosphere, as the modern Earth system and its stabilising feedbacks arose during this key interval. By studying it in more detail, and establishing temporal relationships and causality between key events, we can find out how the modern Earth system is structured, including which biological traits are key to its continued climatic and ecosystem stability. One further goal of this project is to strengthen existing and establish new, and genuinely meaningful collaborations between the UK and Chinese investigators. We will achieve this by working jointly in four research teams, by integrating all existing and new data into an international database, called the Geobiodiversity Database, sharing a joint modelling framework, and by providing collaborative training for the early career researchers involved in this project each year of the project.


Grant
Agency: GTR | Branch: BBSRC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 264.61K | Year: 2016

The production of sufficient good quality crops from intensive production systems can be successful only if the soil has an appropriate structure. This structure is created by interactions between soil mineral particles and organic matter. Organisms in soil, in particular the roots of plants, play an important role in this process. Without good soil structure the soil cannot supply adequate water to plants, root systems cannot develop, nutrients are lost and infiltration of rain fall into soil is reduced resulting in floods and erosion. There has been a general loss of soil structure under intensive crop production, resulting from excessive tillage, often by larger and heavier machinery, the loss of soil organic matter and extreme weather events. It is an urgent necessity to improve and maintain good soil structure, while sustaining production. There are limited options for doing this, and it is likely that success will require a variety of approaches used across a broad front. Reducing tillage operations, residue management to increase organic matter content, and growth of appropriate cover-crops are possible strategies. The latter can be effective because plants engineer soil structure, both directly through the mechanical action of roots, and indirectly by promoting the activity of other organisms in soil. However, cover crops are generally only in the soil for relatively short periods and their likely effectiveness thus limited. Little attention has been given to the possibility of using main crop varieties which have a particular capacity to engineer good soil structure. This would be better than use of cover crops because soil structure would be promoted, along with water and nutrient-use efficiency and soil biodiversity, throughout the period of crop growth. We know that there is considerable variation in the sizes and architecture of root systems within crop species, but we do not know whether there is corresponding variation of the capacity of the plant to engineer soil structure, and the dynamics of soil structure in interaction with these root systems. That is the question to be addressed in this project. We propose to study the a wide range of wheat plants known to have very different root properties and to examine their ability to penetrate compacted soil and to promote the development of soil aggregation through interactions with soil microbes that are known also to play a bioengineering role. We will grow such plants in controlled experimental systems in which the soil structure is degraded in different ways. We will visualise the 3-dimensional distribution of roots, their ability to penetrate compacted soil, and and how they promote the development of a sound soil structure using X-ray computed tomography. This will be done at the scale of the whole root system, but also at fine scale (thousandths of a mm) in the immediate vicinity of the roots (the rhizosphere). To do this we shall adapt and develop mathematical methods to analyse complex spatial variability, and use these to model how the root modifies the local variation of soil structure. These methods will characterize the properties of root systems, and their immediate surroundings. We have a detailed characterisation of the genetic background of the plants that are used. Methods of genetic analysis can be used to show the extent to which properties of an organism depend on particular elements in that organisms genome, which is essential for showing how those properties can be targeted for selection and breeding of new varieties with enhanced properties. We shall use these methods, but the properties we shall examine will not be confined to the plants themselves, but will include measures of how the plant engineers improved structure in the surrounding soil. We shall therefore show how wheat plants can be bred to improve the structure of soils in which they are grown and the sustainability of the production system.


Grant
Agency: GTR | Branch: NERC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 78.01K | Year: 2017

It is hard not to have a fascination for the Permo-Triassic mass extinction (PTME). No other catastrophe in history of the world was so far-reaching and all encompassing. Even the death of the dinosaurs does not look quite as bad when compared with the PTME because, even though these terrestrial giants were wiped out, lots of other things survived, especially at the bottom of the ocean. In contrast, no environment, no habitat and no location was safe at the end of the Permian. Death struck in the deepest oceans, in the shallowest waters, and from the equator to the pole. Understanding what happened during the PTME, ~250 myrs ago, and how life recovered is the subject of a new NERC-funded research programme. Called Eco-PT, it is a major collaboration between British and Chinese scientists. The finger of blame for the PTME points to a giant volcanic region in Siberia. These erupted at the time of the extinction and belched out huge volumes of damaging gases. This included carbon dioxide which is thought to have caused dramatic greenhouse warming and lead to dangerously hot, oxygen-poor and acidified oceans - all bad consequences for marine life. What isnt understood is why conditions got so bad - there have been other giant volcanic eruptions that have not done anywhere near so much harm. The project will look at the extinctions on land and in the sea to examine when and how these two very different ecosystems collapsed. Did everything die at once or did the extinction on land precede that in the oceans or vice versa? China has the best rocks in the world for such a study and intense collecting of fossils will help answer these questions. Precise controls on the age will be achieved using new, ultra-high precision age dating involving uranium decay in volcanic minerals. It is also possible that there was feedback between the terrestrial and marine extinctions, for example plant dieback on land may have changed nutrient input into the oceans and so altered plankton populations that normal food webs were no longer sustainable. The potential causes will be investigated using the latest techniques. Thus, a new technique, involving analysis of molecules in fossil pollen will be used to asses the role of ozone loss. Other volcanic gases, such a sulphur dioxide may also have been involved in the terrestrial extinction and this role can now be investigated by examining trace concentration of sulphur compounds and their isotopes preserved in terrestrial rocks that formed at this time in China. State-of-the-art modelling approaches will also be used to better understand regional and global climate changes during and after the mass extinction and to reconstruct the style of ecosystem recovery. Climate modelling of different scenarios will enable these conditions to be better understand and will help us understand the nature of super-greenhouse worlds with greater clarity. The prolonged recovery from the PTME is also one of the most fascinating intervals of the worlds history. Some groups bounce back quickly whereas others remained in the doldrums for millions of years. The recovery style varied greatly; some groups show an increase in diversity but not their disparity whereas others show an increase of both. What this meant for ecosystem stability and its resilience (ability to cope with further stresses) will be investigated using ecosystem modelling approaches that look at interaction between species and the interplay between form and function in terrestrial animals.

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