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Impact of Holocene land use and climate change upon Brazil’s Atlantic Forest biodiversity hotspot.

   School of Geography and Environmental Science

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  Dr F Mayle  Applications accepted all year round  Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

Background: Brazil’s tropical Atlantic Forest (AF) is exceptionally biodiverse and critically endangered due to centuries of deforestation. As a ‘Biodiversity Hotspot’, it is of global importance and a conservation priority. This project focuses on the southern portion of the AF, spanning coastal tropical rainforest and upland ‘Parana pine forest. This iconic pine (Araucaria angustifolia) is a ‘living fossil’ which has been a key food source – both for dinosaurs during the Jurassic as well as for humans over the past several thousand years, in particular for the pre-Columbian (pre-AD1492) ‘Je’ culture.  

The overall aim of this project: To determine how ancient human societies and climate change have shaped the biodiversity, land cover, and fire regime of the southern AF through the Holocene – the last 12,000 years.  

Approach and Methods: Fossil pollen and charcoal will be analysed from bog sediments to reconstruct Holocene vegetation and fire history and pre-Columbian land use. These palaeoecological data will be correlated with existing palaeoclimate and archaeological data to determine human-climate-environment relationships through the Holocene. Sediment cores have already been collected, so fieldwork is not essential, but there will be opportunities to visit the study area and receive training in relevant field skills. Informal enquires are welcome. Please email Professor Frank Mayle: [Email Address Removed]. 

Funding Notes

Enquiries are encouraged from those who wish to prepare an application for a PhD studentship to the SWW AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership for a start date of October 2023.
First degree at 2.1 (or overseas equivalent) in archaeology, geography or ecology, ideally with MSc degree in Palaeoecology or related subject area.


Wilson, O.J., Mayle, F.E., Walters, R.J., Lingner, D.V., and Vibrans, A.C. (2021). Floristic change in Brazil's Southern Atlantic Forest biodiversity hotspot: From the Last Glacial Maximum to the late 21st century. Quaternary Science Reviews,
Robinson, M., de Souza, J.G., Maezumi, S.Y., Cardenas, M., Pessenda, L.C.R., Prufer, K., Corteletti, R., Scunderlick, D., Mayle, F.E., De Blasis, P., and Iriarte, J. (2018). Uncoupling human and climate drivers of late Holocene vegetation change in southern Brazil. Scientific Reports, 8, 1-10.
Iriarte, J., Smith, R.J., de Souza, J.G., Mayle, F.E., Whitney, B.S., Cárdenas, M.L., Singarayer, J., Carson, J.F., Roy, S. and Valdes, P. (2017). Out of Amazonia: Late Holocene Climate Change and the Tupi-Guarani Trans-Continental Expansion. The Holocene, 27, 967-975."
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