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Cambridge NERC Doctoral Training Partnerships

Graduate Research Opportunities

Lead supervisor: Andrew D. Friend, Geography

Co-supervisor: Emily Lines, Geography

Brief summary: 
Effects of plant biodiversity on the responses of terrestrial ecosystems to environmental change will be studied using a modelling approach
Importance of the area of research concerned: 
Improved understanding of biodiversity and carbon storage responses to environmental change are critical for predictions of future climate and the identification of key regions and interventions for conservation efforts.
Project summary : 
Much of our current understanding of large-scale impacts of environmental change on terrestrial ecosystems relies on “Dynamic Global Vegetation Models” (DGVMs). However, these models only treat very aggregated biological entities (e.g. “Plant Functional Types”), and most do not treat competition and individual plant dynamics explicitly. Conversely, observations indicate that the response of an ecosystem to environmental change depends strongly on its complement of species and their individual physiologies, rather than their average behaviour as assumed in DGVMs. This project will utilise an existing individual-based DGVM to develop methodologies for the treatment of species-level physiological diversity and investigate its consequences for predicted ecosystem dynamics, carbon storage, and biodiversity. It will make use of large-scale forest inventory datasets for model development.
What will the student do?: 
Interrogate forest inventory datasets and implement species-level physiologies in the HYBRID DGVM to investigate consequences of increased biological variability for the prediction of historical and future land carbon balances, plant distributions, and biodiversity.
References - references should provide further reading about the project: 
Coomes, D.A., Flores, O., Holdaway, R., Jucker, T. Lines, E.R., Vanderwel, M.C. 2014. Wood production response to climate change will depend critically on forest composition and structure. Global Change Biology, vol. 20, pp.3632-3645. doi: 10.1111/gcb.12622
Friend, A.D., Lucht, W., Rademacher, T.T., Keribin, R., Betts, R., Cadule, P., Ciais, P., Clark, D.B., Dankers, R., Falloon, P.D., Ito, A., Kahana, R., Kleidon, A., Lomas, M.R., Nishina, K., Ostberg, S., Pavlick, R., Peylin, P., Schaphoff, S., Vuichard, N., Warszawski, L., Wiltshire, A., Woodward, F.I. 2014. Carbon residence time dominates uncertainty in terrestrial vegetation response to future climate and atmospheric CO2. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 111, pp.3280-3285. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1222477110
Lines, E.R., Coomes, D.A., & Purves DW. 2010. Influences of forest structure, climate and species on tree mortality across the eastern US. PLoS ONE, vol. 5, e13212. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0013212
You can find out about applying for this project on the Department of Geography page.