Tropical forests are a major global carbon sink and account for a third of the carbon fixed globally by photosynthesis. Recent research in South America shows that these forests are changing, including increases in abundance and biomass of lianas (woody vines), which may be a results of changing climatic conditions.
Lianas reduce growth and increase mortality of their host trees and as a result may reduce carbon accumulation in tropical forests by as much as 76%. Increased liana dominance may therefore further reduce carbon uptake and storage in tropical forests and therefore endanger the future of the tropical carbon sink, which in turn has serious implications for climate change.
This project aims to 1) determine whether liana increases are also occurring in Malaysia and 2) to test whether locally variable factors are statistically associated with changes in liana infestation and liana impact on the carbon balance of tropical forests.
The project will involve both a field campaign in Malaysia to collect liana data and an analysis of remote sensing data to derive information on spatial characteristics of the forests and a regional-scale map of liana success and impact.
The student will work with a collaborative supervisory team, composed of physical geographers and ecologists from the School of Geography, as well as with Malaysian collaborators (e.g. SEARPP and Malaysian Forest Research Centre). The applicant should be willing to spend time in a relatively isolated area in Malaysia to collect field data and to learn advanced statistical modelling and remote sensing techniques.
Lastly, ecological field experience is an asset, but an enthusiasm for nature and tropical forests is by far the most important prerequisite.
Applicants should hold a minimum of a UK Honours degree at 2:1 level, or equivalent, in a subject such as Physical Geography, Environmental Science, Ecology or Natural Sciences.