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Restoration of degraded tropical forests in Vietnam

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  • Full or part time
    Dr D Spracklen
    Prof Oliver Phillips
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Extensive restoration of degraded forests is crucial if we are to avoid dangerous climate change and avert major loss of biodiversity. Across the tropics, degraded tropical forests now cover an area of 500 million hectares, greater than the size of the European Union. Degraded forests store less carbon than primary forests; restoration sequesters carbon from the atmosphere contributing to the negative emissions needed to keep global warming below 1.5C.

Natural forests in Vietnam have been degraded and lost through extensive logging and subsequent conversion to plantations. Over 80% of natural forests in Vietnam are now heavily degraded, providing an important opportunity for forest restoration. Vietnam has committed to restoring more than 14 million hectares of degraded natural forest.

However, reducing forest degradation and encouraging forest restoration without impacting the livelihoods of local people can be challenging. Local communities depend on natural forests as a source of wood fuel, timber, and food (Ngo et al., submitted). In particular, logging of natural forests supports 10-20% of total household income for forest adjacent communities (Ngo et al, submitted). This selective logging contributes to ongoing forest degradation, resulting in 3 Mg ha-1 yr-1 of biomass loss (Ngo et al., submitted). Compared to deforestation, forest degradation is hard to map and the extent of ongoing forest degradation in Vietnam is not well known.

This studentship will focus on building an improved understanding of the links between local livelihoods and forest restoration. The studentship will involve extended periods of field work in the North Central Coast region of Vietnam where the World Bank and the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility are implementing a Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) programme. Results from the project will help inform these ongoing efforts for sustainable management of Vietnam’s forests. The studentship is a partnership with the World Land Trust, an international conservation NGO working to protect and restore forests in this region. More broadly, the PhD will provide knowledge to support the Bonn Challenge, a global effort to restore 350 million hectares of degraded land by 2030.

Funding Notes

This 3.5 year award will provide tuition fees (£4,500 for 2019/20), tax-free stipend at the UK research council rate (£15,009 for 2019/20), and a research training and support grant. The studentship is funded through a European Research Council Award. 


Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Global warming of 1.5ºC (IPCC, 2018).

Ngo, T. et al., The potential for REDD+ to reduce forest degradation in Vietnam, submitted.

Stas, S. et al., Logging intensity drives variability in carbon stocks in lowland forests in Vietnam, Forest Ecology and Management, in press, 2020.

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