Understanding transient response to climate change in coupled hydro-eco-geomorphic landscapes

Lead Research Organisation: Durham University
Department Name: Geography

Abstract

Climate change is arguably the biggest challenge facing people this century. As part of living with climate change we must understand how our landscape will respond to it. This isn't a simple task; our landscape is defined by a complex set of intertwined processes: as water and sediment moves across the landscape it effects the vegetation that lives there which in turn controls these water and sediment processes. In the UK, climate change will mean greater extremes of temperature, more winter rainfall, and more intense storms leading to wetter upland slopes; plants will have to adapt to this altered environment and these in combination will affect the way the landscape responds to climatic changes. This has important and potentially costly implications for the people that live and work in upland areas. My fellowship will advance our understanding of the linkages between hydrology, ecology and geomorphology through research collaboration with international experts across the US and Europe. One way of reducing its impact would be to increase our ability to predict the landscape's response to altered climate. Models are excellent tools to do this; these simplified versions of reality give us the ability to make predictions about things that have not yet happened. By knowing what factors to look for we can identify areas that will be particularly susceptible to this kind of event, without the event needing to happen. Current models provide valuable information on individual processes but fail to capture the overall picture because they miss the links between these processes, particularly the influence of plants on landslides and vice versa. Within this fellowship I will demonstrate the importance of these links and provide a framework for holistic research that addresses the earth surface system without disciplinary boundaries. I will start by addressing some of the problems with the models that deal with sediment and water transfer in isolation. In doing this I will both improve our understanding of how this system responds to climate change and provide a template to show how important landslides are to the development of vegetation in an environment. This is important because ecosystems provide important and incompletely understood services, including carbon storage and nutrient regulation. I can then work the relationships between vegetation, sediment and water back into the models to improve our ability to predict the landscape's response to changing climate. These predictions are valuable because we know that our landscape is set to change; this research helps us to predict how and when, and that knowledge allows us to face the challenges of these changes.

Publications

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Bellugi D (2015) A spectral clustering search algorithm for predicting shallow landslide size and location in Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface

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Bellugi DG (2021) Controls on the size distributions of shallow landslides. in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

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Milledge D (2012) Limits on the validity of infinite length assumptions for modelling shallow landslides in Earth Surface Processes and Landforms

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Milledge DG (2014) A multidimensional stability model for predicting shallow landslide size and shape across landscapes. in Journal of geophysical research. Earth surface

 
Description No change from previous responses
Exploitation Route No change from previous submission
Sectors Environment,Transport

 
Description My findings have been used by other researchers to develop improved landslide prediction models. This research has not yet reached a stage where it can be applied outside a research context. While I have spent some of my time during this project ensuring that work from previous projects has maximum impact on the practice of environmental decision makers and stakeholders this has been for flooding and diffuse pollution related projects rather than the landscape response project which I expect to have increasing impact over the next several years.
 
Description Collaboration with Bellugi and Perron at MIT 
Organisation Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Department Department of Earth Atmospheric and Planetary Science
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I have developed an analytical slope stability model in order to predict the size and shape of shallow landslides. I have then worked with collaborators at MIT to apply this under a range of climate scenarios.
Collaborator Contribution Dr Bellugi has developed an efficient algorithm that can be combined with my analytical slope stability model in order to predict landslide size and location across landscapes. Dr Bellugi and Dr Perron are applying this model under a range of climate scenarios in order to examine the influence of climate change on landsliding across the USA.
Impact Publications: doi/10.1002/2014JF003137 doi/10.1002/2015JF003520 This collaboration is multi-disciplinary involving researchers from: Geography, Earth Sciences and Computer Sciences
Start Year 2011
 
Description Department of Earth and Planetary Science, University of California, Berkeley 
Organisation University of California, Berkeley
Department Department of Earth and Planetary Science
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I visited UC Berkeley for a year as part of my NERC fellowship and have built strong links with Prof William Dietrich and his group there. I have three publications with this group. I led work on an analytical model to predict landslide size and shape.
Collaborator Contribution Dr Dino Bellugi, led on work on the development of a search algorithm that applied my landslide model across a landscape. We are continuing to work together on applying this model for landslide hazard and landscape evolution research.
Impact doi/10.1002/2014JF003135 doi/10.1002/2014JF003137 doi/10.1002/2015JF003520 This collaboration is multi-disciplinary involving researchers from: Geography, Earth Sciences and Computer Sciences
Start Year 2011