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OP2360 Where the wild things go: finding and creating refugia from climate change in Northern Britain

   Department of Geography & Environmental Sciences

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  Dr A Suggitt  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project


Accelerating climate change is exacerbating the extinction crisis, and one sixth of species now face global extinction by the end of the century1 . Successful adaptation to climate change will require the identification and testing of measures that can either facilitate the movement of species polewards, or that can increase the likelihood of species persistences in situ, or both2 . Climate change refugiaregions of atypical climate or microclimate that arise due to the buffering effect of topography, vegetation or the soil- can buffer species from adverse changes in the climate3 , but our understanding of where, when, and how they form is poor.

This project will investigate the potential for refugia to buffer species from climate change in the rugged upland terrain of Northern Britain, as palaeoecological evidence suggests that this region provided an important buffer for cold-dwelling species during warmer episodes of the past4 . The successful candidate will be trained to use a mix of the latest field-, desk- and data-analytic techniques to study the effects of restoration on the cold- and wet-dwelling flora and fauna that could benefit the most. They will combine field study data with high resolution spatial analysis to assess the microclimatic buffering potential of rugged terrain, of high altitude, and of the vegetation canopy at multiple sites simultaneously.

Working with partners at the Northumberland Wildlife Trust, a conservation charity, the successful candidate will study the refugia potential of several new ecological restoration and nature recovery projects in North East England, and more widely across Northern Britain. Past, present and future restoration sites will be selected based on the presence of multiple characteristics of refugiaterrain, vegetation, moisture regime- in one landscape. Thus the potential for the simultaneous achievement of policy goals relating to nature recovery, climate change mitigation, and climate change adaptation (‘win-win-wins’) will be assessed, and the results will feed into local, national and international efforts to help wild species adapt to climate change.

Key Research Gaps and Questions:

  1. At what spatial and temporal scales do climate change refugia form?
  2. Which species, populations, or ecosystems will benefit from refugia?
  3. How can we design nature recovery, restoration, and rewilding projects to maximise climate change adaptation?


The project is suitable for those with a BSc or MSc/MRes in Ecology, Environmental Science, Geography or allied discipline. Experience of fieldwork, insect/plant identification, R and/or statistics would be advantageous. For more information contact Dr Andy Suggitt ([Email Address Removed]).

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