Measuring tropical forest degradation and its consequences using satellite data

Страна: Великобритания;

Дедлайн: 28.02.2015



The Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures focuses on advancing the science of sustainability and connecting it with the policy debate around how humans can live in a more sustainable way.

The rapid depletion of tropical forests has severe implications for the carbon cycle, global climate, local populations and biodiversity. Much of our knowledge about large scale change relies on satellite data, which can accurately detect deforestation. However, the detection of forest degradation due to selective logging from satellite data is much less well-developed and the necessary properties of forest structure cannot be measured. New satellite data, including long wavelength radar and high resolution radar, offer a means to address this problem through the development of new methods and effective combination with field data.

This PhD project will develop novel integrated methods for using satellite data with field data to determine both carbon and biodiversity values in selectively logged tropical forests. The successful candidate will learn and develop integrated tropical forest measuring and monitoring systems targeted at improved detection of tropical forest degradation, and assessment of its consequences. These tools are of utmost importance for planning and management of conservation programmes in developing nations.

The post would suit a motivated student interested in tropical forest ecology, geosciences and sustainable development, and would involve developing skills in both fieldwork and satellite data understanding and analysis.

The rapid depletion of tropical forests has severe implications for the carbon cycle, global climate and biodiversity. REDD+ and UN-REDD are emerging frameworks for mitigating these effects through reducing deforestation and forest degradation, and supporting sustainable forestry and biodiversity protection, with the UNFCCC predicting that payments to tropical nations could reach $30 billion annually.

The prioritisation of where and what to conserve is currently made using remote sensing, which can accurately detect deforestation. However, present methods for detecting and mapping forest degradation due to selective logging from satellite data are poorly developed and cannot measure the necessary attributes of forest structure. This is a particularly important knowledge gap, given that over 400 million hectares of tropical rainforest – an area the size of the European Union – is in the tropical timber estate and is being selectively logged. Without sufficiently accurate measurements of changes in carbon content, prioritising REDD+ funds to reduce degradation is extremely challenging.

Major tasks of the PhD:

(1) Measure carbon stocks and tree biodiversity within logged and primary (baseline control) forests at three locations in each of the Brazilian Amazon and Borneo, and across a range of logging intensities.
(2) Design algorithms for linking ground data with satellite data.
(3) Use algorithms developed in (2) to determine the rate of logging expansion, extent of carbon loss, and the extent of tree biodiversity loss regionally.

An important context for this PhD is the United Nation’s Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation initiative (REDD+) aimed at providing support for developing countries to better manage their forests, and the student would be able to relate their findings to the major international effort in this area.

Training in use of satellite data and algorithm development will be provided.

We are recruiting Scholars who will combine outstanding intellect with a strong commitment to public engagement, leadership and action. These ambitious individuals will complete interdisciplinary PhD research projects to help solve the challenges of sustainability. They will be supported by the Centre through a unique training programme, designed to equip them with the skills to become policy advocates and leaders in sustainability matters.

Please note: in online application process please select ’standard PhD’ not DTC option

Funding Notes:

This four year studentship will be fully funded at Home/EU or international rates. Support for travel and consumables (RTSG) will also be made available at standard rate of £2,563 per annum, with an additional one-off allowance of £1,000 for a computer in the first year. Students will receive an annual stipend of £16,913 in 2015/16, rising with inflation thereafter. Applications should be received and complete by 28 February 2015.