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Cambridge NERC Doctoral Training Partnerships

Graduate Research Opportunities
 
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Brief summary: 
Forest planting and proforestation - the protection and restoration of natural forests - are seen as key natural climate solutions. Forests already sequester a significant fraction of CO2 emitted from fossil fuel consumption and many governments have committed to increase forest cover to combat climate change. There is also hope that carbon offsetting payments could help protect beleaguered tropical forests, benefit local livelihoods and save biodiversity. However, rising air temperatures are responsible for increased evaporative demand, placing forest under water stress and leading to tree mortality in many regions (e.g. Hubau et al. 2020 Nature ). How does this increased mortality affect the global carbon sink and how should forest management adapt to ensure the right trees are planted in the right places to tolerate future climates? A combination of field measurements, remote sensing and modelling are needed to resolve these important issues.
Importance of the area of research concerned: 
Forest planting and proforestation - the protection and restoration of natural forests - are seen as key natural climate solutions. Forests already sequester a significant fraction of CO2 emitted from fossil fuel consumption and many governments have committed to increase forest cover to combat climate change. There is also hope that carbon offsetting payments could help protect beleaguered tropical forests, benefit local livelihoods and save biodiversity. However, rising air temperatures are responsible for increased evaporative demand, placing forest under water stress and leading to tree mortality in many regions (e.g. Hubau et al. 2020 Nature ). How does this increased mortality affect the global carbon sink and how should forest management adapt to ensure the right trees are planted in the right places to tolerate future climates? A combination of field measurements, remote sensing and modelling are needed to resolve these important issues.
Project summary : 
The Coomes group has developed approaches to track changes in aboveground carbon and canopy structure at high resolution over large spatial scales. Repeated lidar surveys, airborne photogrammetry and satellite imagery (including Sentinel-2 and GEDI) can also be used. The project involves working with an emerging global network of partners to analyse these dataset and collect new data, to understand how climate change is affecting tree survival. This remote sensing work will be accompanied by detailed fieldwork in plantations and natural forests to understand the consequences climate change on forest carbon dynamics, including above and below-ground changes.
What will the student do?: 
* Review the rapidly advancing literature on lidar and radar surveying of forest dynamics * Work with an emerging network of researchers interested in tracking forest change using high-resolution imagery to identify sites for analysis * Use approaches developed in Cambridge to detect canopy changes, tree mortality and track carbon dynamics over forested landscapes and understand landscape level processes influencing mortality (e.g. climate and topographic position) * Work in selected field sites to calibrate/validate the remote sensing analyses and collect auxiliary data (e.g. forest soil carbon and tree rings) * By comparing changes across different sites, generate new knowledge on forest carbon responses to climate change
References - references should provide further reading about the project: 
Nunes et al. (2021) Recovery of Logged Forest Fragments in a Human-modified Tropical Landscape. Nature Communications 12 (1526). doi:10.1038/s41467-020-20811-y
Khoury et al. (2020) Resilience of Spanish forests to recent droughts and climate change. Global Change Biology 26:7079–7098. DOI: 10.1111/gcb.15268
Jucker, T. et al. (2018) Estimating Aboveground Carbon Density and Its Uncertainty in Borneo's Structurally Complex Tropical Forests Using Airborne Laser Scanning. Biogeosciences 15 (12), 3811–3830. doi:10.5194/bg-15-3811-2018.
Applying
You can find out about applying for this project on the Department of Plant Sciences page.
Dr Emily Lines
Department of Plant Sciences Graduate Administrator
David Coomes