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Understanding and predicting sensitivity of Amazonia’s forests to increasing heat and drought


Key facts

Type of research degree
Application deadline
Ongoing deadline
Project start date
Saturday 1 June 2024
Country eligibility
UK only
Source of funding
Research council
Professor David Galbraith and Professor Emanuel Gloor
Additional supervisors
Prof. Beatriz Schwantes-Marimon, Prof. BenHur Marimon
<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Summary</h2>

One full scholarship is available in the School of Geography during 2024 to 2027. This scholarship is open to UK applicants and covers salary, contribution to equipment and access to a Doctoral training program (SENSE).<br /> <br /> This fully funded PhD place provides an exciting opportunity to pursue postgraduate research on vulnerability of Amazonian forests to heat and drought. It will use an individual and mechanism-based forest model, and unique data characterizing eco-physiological limits of functioning as well as forest demographical data to address this question. <br /> <br /> The award is open to full-time candidates (UK only). <br />

<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Full description</h2>

<p style="margin-bottom:11px">Tropical forests fulfil important roles both for climate and biodiversity. They are exposed to a range of pressures including an increasingly hotter and erratic climate as well as changing atmospheric composition (particularly CO2 and N2O levels raising) (Lapola et al., 2023). In the Amazon there is clear evidence not only of temperatures increasing but also of shifts in the hydrological cycle, with dry season length and seasonal amplitude of precipitation increasing. How these forests will be affected on a long-term is unclear. To observe and understand mechanistically what changes these forests are undergoing and whether limits of functioning may be reached, members our group maintain an widespread pan-tropical forest census network. In addition our group has measured tropical tree traits characterizing mechanistically tree vulnerability to heat and drought. It is starting a drought experiment in Southern Amazonia this summer, the region where temperatures have increased most rapidly.</p> <p>The traits like e.g. species-specific vulnerability of the tree hydraulic system to drought and atmospheric vapor pressure deficit open the possibility to analyse demographic changes of these forests with a mechanistic individual based forest simulator (specifically TFS &lsquo;trait-based forest simulator). In turn such a model can be used to explore future forest trajectories. The model we would like the student to use (TFS) is tailored to model and analyse forest plot census data over time. It parametrizes forests using traits and includes a mechanistic description of tree hydraulics and hydraulic failure using observed vulnerability curves.</p> <p>The purpose of the studentship is to apply the model to Amazonian forest demographics data (from forest census plots) using characteristics of the vulnerability of tree hydraulic systems to drought. Specific questions and tasks will include to answer to what extent overreaching limits of functioning of tree hydraulic system can predict mortality risk, to then predict mortality risk maps as a function of dry anomalies across the&nbsp;Amazon, and similarly for thermal limits, and eventually to predict tree functional shifts as a result of a changing climate.</p> <p>The PhD post is part of the UKRI funded consortium project SOS-Amazon which has just started. Thus the candidate will have the opportunity to participate in regularly occurring meetings of the full consortium. As part of this project annual forest censuses along a South to north gradient in Southern Amazonia will be measured, as well as a continuously climate and soil state. The candidate will have the possibility to join / co-lead these efforts.</p> <p>The PhD links also to a second UKRI grant (LethalPsi) led by Prof. David Galbraith. It studies limits of functioning of forest trees under drought using a drought experiment in Southern Amazonia. This project has also just started. There will be the possibility to apply the model to this experiment and use it as a calibration / test case.</p> <p>For questions please contact either Prof. E. Gloor (<a href=""></a>) and/or Prof. D. Galbraith (</p> <p>Applicant conditions:</p> <ul> <li>Applicants must not have already been awarded or be currently studying for a doctoral degree.</li> <li>The Applicant should start as soon as possible ideally before June 2024.</li> <li>Applicants must live within a reasonable distance of the University of Leeds whilst in receipt of this scholarship.</li> </ul>

<h2 class="heading">How to apply</h2>

<p>Formal applications for research degree study should be made online through the&nbsp;<a href="">University&#39;s website</a>. Please state clearly in the research information section&nbsp;that the research degree you wish to be considered for is&nbsp;Understanding and predicting sensitivity of Amazonia&rsquo;s forests to increasing heat and drought as well as <a href="">Professor Emanuel Gloor</a> as your proposed supervisor.</p> <p>If English is not your first language, you must provide evidence that you meet the University&#39;s minimum English language requirements (below).</p> <p><em>As an international research-intensive university, we welcome students from all walks of life and from across the world. We foster an inclusive environment where all can flourish and prosper, and we are proud of our strong commitment to student education. Across all Faculties we are dedicated to diversifying our community and we welcome the unique contributions that individuals can bring, and particularly encourage applications from, but not limited to Black, Asian, people who belong to a minority ethnic community, people who identify as LGBT+ and people with disabilities. Applicants will always be selected based on merit and ability.</em></p>

<h2 class="heading heading--sm">Entry requirements</h2>

Applicants to research degree programmes should normally have at least a first class or an upper second class British Bachelors Honours degree (or equivalent) in an appropriate discipline. The criteria for entry for some research degrees may be higher, for example, several faculties, also require a Masters degree. Applicants are advised to check with the relevant School prior to making an application. Applicants who are uncertain about the requirements for a particular research degree are advised to contact the School or Graduate School prior to making an application.<br /> <br /> Applicants to this scholarship in the School of Geography should have a keen interest in questions related to the natural environment and climate change. They should have strong quantitative abilities and skills and in particular a flair for applying computer models to natural problems. Backgrounds in fields like biology, environmental science and engineering, computational mathematics and physics are all well-suited.

<h2 class="heading heading--sm">English language requirements</h2>

The minimum English language entry requirement for research postgraduate research study is an IELTS of 6.0 overall with at least 5.5 in each component (reading, writing, listening and speaking) or equivalent. The test must be dated within two years of the start date of the course in order to be valid. Some schools and faculties have a higher requirement.

<h2 class="heading">Funding on offer</h2>

<p style="margin-bottom:11px">We are offering 1 full-time/ part-time 3.5 year PhD scholarship in the School of Geography for one UK candidate, covering a maintenance grant matching UKRI maintenance stipend (currently &pound;17,668 in 2022/23) and UK&nbsp;tuition fees for three years, subject to satisfactory progress.&nbsp;</p>

<h2 class="heading">Contact details</h2>

<p>For further information please contact the Post Graduate Admissions team by email:</p> <p></p>