Mangrove forests are uniquely valuable tropical coastal wetlands in the transition zone be- tween land and sea that suffer significant destruction worldwide. In Indonesia 40% of man- grove coverage has been lost over the last three decades. Mangrove restoration and re- habilitation (R/R) are now high on the agenda of conservation NGOs and governments with the aim to re-establish biodiversity, ecosystem functions and services. However, most R/R projects to date have failed and there are major knowledge gaps and limitations in understanding the ecological effectiveness of mangrove R/R initiatives.
Over the past decade conservation managers have increasingly recognised the importance of the legacy of past environmental change and human impact for understanding the present state of an ecosystem. Palaeoecological archives provide a unique opportunity to extend the period of record of observed data and provide information on centennial to millennial scale responses to long-term drivers of ecosystem change. The PhD project will apply an innovative combination of palynological and molecular re- construction techniques to explore the legacy of past environmental change and human impact in Indonesian mangrove forests. The ultimate aim of this PhD project is to improve restoration and conservation success by providing pre-human impact vegetation baselines. The project will also explore the potential of reconstructing present and past vegetation using a combination of palynology and metabarcoding of mangrove sediments.
The PhD project will be linked to the NERC funded WALLACEA project CoReNAT which involves a multidisciplinary research team with partners from 3 UK (including Dr Darren Evans’ Network Ecology Group, Newcastle University for DNA metabarcoding) and 4 Indonesian universities. The overall aim of the CoReNat project is to assess mangrove ecosystem biodiversity, functions, resilience and service provision, and to make evidence- based recommendations for maximizing the success of future R/R efforts in Indonesia. The PhD student will gain experience in palynology, molecular ecological networks, sedimentology and botany through both laboratory work and field work in Indonesia.
Key Research Gaps and Questions:
How effective are mangrove restoration and rehabilitation projects in re-establishing biodiversity, ecosystem functions and services?
What are the pre-human impact vegetation baselines in modern mangrove forests?
The project is suitable for a student with background in Geosciences and Ecology and will involve fieldwork in Indonesia. Some experience in micropaleontology and/or genetics is desirable.
These are (3.5 year) fully funded PhD studentship awards available for entry September 2019. Each award includes fees (Home/EU), an annual living allowance (£14,777) and a Research Training Support Grant (for travel, consumables, as required).