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  Developing low-cost methods for tropical forest and peatland carbon monitoring PhD

   School of Water, Energy and Environment (SWEE)

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  Dr D Simms, Dr Nick Girkin  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Tropical forests and peatlands are globally important carbon stores but are under threat from land use and climate change. To offset hard-to-reduce emissions, many businesses invest in carbon credit schemes to preserve and/or restore these ecosystems. Underpinning such schemes is a need to accurately assess their extent, carbon storage intensity, and to undertake ongoing high-resolution monitoring. In this project you will test a range of novel remote-sensing methodologies for cost-effective monitoring of carbon storage and sequestration in tropical forests and peatlands, validating approaches with literature data, and optional fieldwork to collect new measurements of above and belowground carbon storage.

It is an exciting opportunity for a fully-funded NERC - CENTA PhD Studentship for 3.5 years. CENTA is a consortium of Universities and research institutes that are working together to provide excellence in doctoral research training within the remit of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). Successful home-fees-eligible candidates will receive an annual stipend, set at £15,609, paid directly to the student in monthly increments, full university fees and a research training support grant of £8,000.

Project Highlights: 

·       Understanding carbon sequestration in forested tropical peatlands

·       Evidence-based and transparent approach to validating carbon credits schemes

·       Use of novel technology for new insight and data-driven decision making


Tropical forests are recognised as globally important carbon stores, sequestering significant quantities of atmospheric carbon dioxide aboveground in the vegetation. Less well understood are tropical peatlands, which not only sequester substantial carbon in plant biomass, but also can store carbon to significant depth in the soil, and are amongst the most carbon dense ecosystems on Earth. Tropical peatland ecosystems can continue to sequester carbon while they remain flooded, but many are frequently drained for agricultural production. Both tropical forests and peatlands are under substantial threats from land use and climate change - maintaining and enhancing these carbon stores is crucial for climate change mitigation.

To offset their emissions, many businesses are investing in carbon credit schemes which focus on removing atmospheric carbon dioxide through planting trees and/or conserving and regenerating existing areas of forest and peatland. Underpinning all such schemes is the need to accurately quantify carbon storage baselines, and to carry out regular monitoring to ensure the additionality and permanence of stored carbon.

Conventional approaches for achieving this are often labour intensive and expensive, requiring ongoing measurements in the field. A range of new remote sensing technologies, when combined with a comprehensive understanding of tropical forest and tropical peatland ecosystem dynamics, have the potential to develop new approaches for validating such schemes. Working to meet the needs of businesses developing carbon credits, the project proposes to develop novel methodologies for cost-effective monitoring of carbon storage and sequestration in tropical forests and peatlands. In the long-term this will help businesses by allowing them to scale their projects and achieve cost-savings through monitoring projects more rapidly. This will be achieved through a combination of synthesising existing datasets, developing new models, and through optional fieldwork primarily focussing on poorly mapped tropical peatlands in Central America (Panama and Costa Rica).

 Entry requirements

Applicants should have at least a 2:1 at UK BSc level or at least a pass at UK MSc level or equivalent in a related discipline.

Start date: Oct 2022

How to apply

To apply, please follow this link and click “Apply now”.

For general enquiries about this position, including help applying, terms and conditions, etc, please contact: [Email Address Removed], quoting reference number SWEE0167.

Biological Sciences (4) Business & Management (5) Engineering (12) Environmental Sciences (13)

Funding Notes

Please note the grant covers fee costs for a Home award. Unless you are eligible for such a Home award, you will need to consider how you will be able to meet any shortfall in funding for tuition fees, e.g. self-funded. Please contact the supervisors listed on the project for more information.