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PhD Studentship in Natural and Environmental Sciences - Effects of landscape management and functional biodiversity on ecosystem service provision in complex tropical landscapes, East Africa

Project Description

Number of awards:

Start date and duration:
September 2019 for 3 years.

Agricultural expansion in the tropics is leading to widespread biodiversity loss, altered ecosystem functioning and impaired ecosystem service delivery. Strategies to mitigate or offset this loss of biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in tropical agricultural landscapes include the establishment of more complex, biologically diverse production systems (e.g. polycultures, agro-forestry systems) or actively managing the landscape matrix in which production systems are embedded to enhance landscape-scale biodiversity and ecosystem service delivery (e.g. introduction of wildlife corridors, rehabilitation of degraded forest remnants). However, the relative efficacy of these different mitigation strategies is still in question, making it difficult for the scientific community to provide stakeholders and policymakers with clear guidance as to the best strategies to adopt in order to enhance the overall ecological and environmental sustainability of tropical agricultural production systems.

This PhD project will investigate the effectiveness of various biodiversity and climate change mitigation strategies implemented as part of the FORCE research programme in Tanzania. The PhD candidate will work with an international and multidisciplinary team of researchers, including colleagues from the University of York, University of the Sunshine Coast (Australia), University of Leeds (UK), Sokoine University of Agriculture (Tanzania), Reforest Africa, Missouri Botanic Gardens (USA), Tanzania Tree Seed Agency, Tanzania Forest Service, Tanzania National Parks Authority and the Millennium Seed Bank (UK). The PhD candidate will be expected to develop an innovative and independent research project exploring the links between landscape management strategies, functional biodiversity and ecosystem processes. Potential areas of research include (but are not limited to): exploring the links between vegetation structure and landscape carbon dynamics across natural and man-made habitats; assessing the effectiveness of different management interventions in enhancing soil fertility and reducing soil erosion; or use of spatially explicit models to investigate the net benefits of biodiversity for crop production within the study landscape.

School of Natural and Environmental Sciences (

Name of supervisor(s):
Yit Arn Teh (first supervisor) and Marion Pfeifer (second supervisor) (

Eligibility Criteria:
You must have, or expect to achieve, at least a 2:1 honours degree or international equivalent, in a related subject. The award is available to UK/EU applicants only.

How to apply:
You must apply through the University’s online postgraduate application system. To do this please ‘Create a new account’ (

You will need to:

insert the programme code 8314F in the programme of study section
select ‘PhD Geoscience (FT)’ as the programme of study
insert the studentship code NES021 in the studentship/partnership reference field
attach a covering letter and CV. The covering letter must state the title of the studentship, quote reference code NES021 and state how your interests and experience relate to the project
attach degree transcripts and certificates and, if English is not your first language, a copy of your English language qualifications.

Funding Notes

100% of UK/EU tuition fees paid and annual living expenses of £15,009 (full award). Also significant additional funding to cover research costs.

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