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Integrated management of catchment and riparian forest cover: balancing carbon sequestration with resilience of freshwater ecosystem services.

School of Geosciences

, , Friday, January 08, 2021 Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Climate change is altering rivers in the Scottish Highlands. Already, lower summer rainfall and higher air temperatures are contributing to lower summer flows and warmer streams. This is changing the habitat for aquatic ecosystems, and cold-water species such as Atlantic salmon will probably be adversely affected. At the same time, various policy drivers linked to climate adaptation (e.g. carbon sequestration, biofuel production etc,) are likely to increase the cover of forests in Scotland over the coming decades. One such driver is to mitigate rising stream temperatures by providing riparian shading and reducing short wave radiation inputs to streams. However, forests “use” more water than the moorlands they replace as a result of increased evapotranspiration. This leads to a potential trade off between protecting water quality but reducing stream flows and damaging aquatic habitats. More scientific evidence is needed to understand how alternative tree planting strategies (e.g. location, density, species etc.) will affect stream water quality and quantity in different landscapes so that the maintenance of ecosystem services can be optimised.

This HydroNation PhD studentship will address this crucial research gap in an interdisciplinary, policy relevant project that brings together landscape ecology, hydrology and fisheries science. The work will integrate field-based monitoring and “state-of-the art” environmental modelling to assess the impact of alternative forest strategies on the hydrological and thermal regimes of streams draining contrasting catchments (e.g. upland vs. lowland). These model outputs will then be used to project what the effects on fish densities are likely to be. The work will draw on the support and supervisory expertise of Scotland’s leading centres for hydrological research (Prof. Chris Soulsby, University of Aberdeen), land use science (Dr Alessandro Gimona, Hutton Institute) and fisheries management (Dr Iain Malcolm, Marine Scotland Science). This will provide an interdisciplinary framework for PhD training that will focus on policy-relevant science in the context of building resilience to climate change.

We invite applications from highly motivated candidates with interests in interdisciplinary environmental science and strong interests in environmental modelling. The successful applicant will have a 1st or 2.1 class degree in a relevant subject (e.g. environmental science, environmental engineering, ecology, geoscience etc.); qualification at Masters level may be an advantage.

Applicants are strongly advised to make an informal enquiry about the PhD to the primary supervisor well before the final submission deadline. Applicants must send a completed application form (available here:, their Curriculum Vitae and a covering letter to the primary supervisor by the final submission deadline of 8th January.

Funding Notes

The Hydro Nation Scholars Programme is an open competition for PhD Scholars to undertake approved projects, hosted within Scottish Universities and Research Institutes. This project will be hosted at University of Aberdeen. Full funding is available from the Scottish Government (to host institutions via the Scottish Funding Council). The funding available will be in line with the UKRI doctoral stipend levels and indicative fees. Applicants should have a first-class honours degree in a relevant subject or a 2.1 honours degree plus Masters (or equivalent). Shortlisted candidates will be interviewed on 11th or 12th February 2021.

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