Constraining the carbon balance of intact tropical forest landscapes

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: Sch of Geography

Abstract

Intact tropical forests play a key role in determining the rate of climate change, as they can act as either a significant sink, or potentially source, of carbon. Data from long-term forest inventory plots indicate that over recent decades, these ecosystems have acted as a carbon sink [1-3], but this has been greatly reduced during drought events [4].

In Amazonia, a key issue is how to extrapolate the estimates of the carbon balance of forest plots to estimate the carbon balance of tropical forest landscapes. In particular, approaches are required that simultaneously integrate spatial variation in sink strength and disturbance and recovery processes. The development of these methods is important to encourage uptake of the finding of a carbon sink within intact forests within a national and international policy context. The aim of this PhD is therefore to link analysis of ecological and remote sensing data to improve estimation of the carbon balance of intact tropical forest landscapes, and insert the methods and results within national reporting of carbon emissions in tropical forest countries.

Depending on the interests of the candidate, the project could involve:

- New ecological analysis of spatial and temporal trends in the carbon balance of Amazonian forest plots, as a basis for improved extrapolation of its strength. For example, analyses could explore how forest carbon balance varies regionally and with variation in forest structure, soils and climate, in relation to indexes of fragmentation such as the distance to the nearest forest edge, or in relation to known sites of historical human occupation
- Novel evaluation of existing and emerging remote sensing products that aim to measure the carbon balance of intact forests, including consideration of appropriate statistical methods to cross scale-gaps between remotely sensed and plot datasets
- Integrating plot and remote sensing datasets to develop new products to estimate landscape-level carbon balance that extrapolate sink strength spatially and incorporate the contribution of disturbances, degradation and the dynamics of secondary forest regrowth

A key impulse behind this project is to improve national-level accounting of carbon in tropical forests. This aspect of the project would be focussed on existing strong collaborations with government organisations in Peru, including the Peruvian Protected Areas Authority (SERNANP) and the Ministry of the Environment (MINAM).

The supervisory team leads successful projects and collaborations to support this new research project, including the RAINFOR network, the ForestPlots.net initiative and the analysis of remote sensing products to assess the carbon balance of Amazonia. The team also has close existing links to Peruvian institutions as a result of an on-going initiative to monitor the health of forest in protected areas. You will have the opportunity to interact extensively with collaborators and stakeholders across Amazonia, during the project.

Publications

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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
NE/S007458/1 01/09/2019 31/08/2027
2287776 Studentship NE/S007458/1 01/10/2019 31/03/2023 Rebecca Charlotte Banbury Morgan