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School of Geography

Rachael Osguthorpe Rachael Osguthorpe

Contact details

Room Garstang 10.08
School of Geography
University of Leeds
University Road
Leeds LS2 9JT   UK



Project title

Upland soil functions under organic grazing systems

Project Background

The UK uplands are a critical zone for water supply and for flood risk to urban areas, and as part of the UK Industrial Strategy it is critical that we understand how to enhance the ability of soils to secure our water supplies and reduce flood vulnerability, particularly in the face of climate change.  There are a growing number of organic sheep farms in upland areas, but it is not known whether this sheep farming method has any impact on key soil functions, and therefore on ecosystem service provision.  There is potential for soil physical and chemical properties to vary between organically and conventionally managed sheep farming systems, due to differences in factors such as grazing intensity, fertiliser application and the use of veterinary treatments. In turn such changes may influence hydrological functions such as water storage and transfer, and the leaching of carbon, nutrients and veterinary treatments such as anthelmintics. 

It is therefore the aim of this project to improve our understanding of the role of upland sheep grazing management in maintaining and enhancing the key soil hydrological functions of UK organo-mineral soils in upland areas, potentially delivering benefits upstream and downstream in flood and drought resilience and good water quality.  This knowledge can then be used by Natural England and other organisations to determine ways that enable grazing management in these communities to continue and thrive while at the same time reducing dependence on, for example, energy-costly manufactured fertilizers and veterinary treatments, whilst protecting valuable soil functions.

The approach will be experimental, involving laboratory analysis and manipulation of organo-mineral soil samples collected from UK upland areas under organically and conventionally managed sheep grazing systems.

Research areas

The project will focus on the following 4 key soil functions of UK organo-mineral soils, looking at how they each differ under organically managed sheep grazing systems compared to conventional sheep grazing management.

  1. Soil physical and hydrological functions.
  2. Carbon Leaching.
  3. Nitrogen leaching.
  4. Leaching of veterinary treatments, primarily anti-parasitic products such as anthelmintics.


Cluster & research affiliations


NERC DTP CASE studentship with Natural England


  • 2013-2017 MEnvSci Environmental Science, University of Sheffield
  • 2016-2017 Research Assistant (placement), Department of Geography, University of Sheffield


  • 2016: University of Sheffield Alice Garnett Prize for best performance in 3rd year dissertation research project
  • 2017: University of Sheffield Alice Garnett Prize for best performance in masters thesis


  • Eddey, L. and Osguthorpe, R.E. 2017. Ings Farm, Yedingham in Field Guide to the Quaternary of the Vale of Pickering. Lincoln, P, Eddey, L. Mathews, I Palmer, A, and Bateman, M. (Editors). Quaternary Research Association: London.