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Species and size specific effects of urban trees on above- and below-ground ecosystem service provision


Project Description

More than half of the global population live in urban areas, and that figure is projected to rise to 66% by 2050. The quality of urban environments is increasingly recognized to be influenced by vegetation and greenspaces that play important roles in providing ecosystem services such as moderating urban heat island effects and providing high-quality living space aesthetically and regarding components such as air quality and surface water management. While urban densification is a clear threat to ecosystem service provision, effective management of the greenspace resource can minimize this. Indeed, in some cases, it can enhance provision above that of the surrounding agricultural landscape. Urban trees make a disproportionate contribution towards ecosystem service provision by urban greenspaces, but there are key knowledge-gaps that may limit the potential benefits of tree planting schemes and planning requirements:
1) To what extent does the choice of tree species effect ecosystem service provision?
2) What is the relationship between tree distribution, size and ecosystem service provision?
3) How far do tree effects on soil ecosystem service extend into adjacent greenspaces or under sealed surfaces?
This student will use a suite of indicators of ecosystem service provision to explore how urban tree distribution, species and size affect ecosystem service provision both above- and below-ground. This position would be ideally suited to a PhD student with enthusiasm to use a mix of field, lab and GIS techniques to address the research questions. The multidisciplinary nature of the topic will provide the student with the opportunity to gain a diverse skill set in ecology, soil science, civil engineering, landscape ecology and GIS. The supervisory team span two departments at the University of Sheffield with Dr Jill Edmondson and Prof. Jonathan Leake in the Department of Animal and Plant Sciences and Dr Virginia Stovin in the Department of Civil and Structural Engineering. Forest Research, Britain’s principal organisation for forestry and tree-related research, is the CASE partner for this project. Dr Kieron Doick, who leads Forest Research’s Urban Forest Research Group will act as an external project supervisor. The student will also have an opportunity to work with collaborative partner Sheffield City Council, and so knowledge exchange will be an integral part of the research with a direct opportunity to influence policy. This research is strategically important as The Governments’ 25 Year Environment Plan (published in 2018), aims to plant 1 million urban trees by 2020. This project will better inform decision making on providing ‘more and better quality green infrastructure, including trees’, and aid the development of the national framework of green infrastructure standards proposed in the 25 Year Plan.

Funding Notes

Fully funded studentships cover: (i) a stipend at the UKRI rate (at least £14,777 per annum for 2019-2020), (ii) research costs, and (iii) tuition fees. Studentship(s) are available to UK and EU students who meet the UK residency requirements.
This PhD project is part of the NERC funded Doctoral Training Partnership “ACCE” (Adapting to the Challenges of a Changing Environment View Website. ACCE is a partnership between the Universities of Sheffield, Liverpool, York, CEH, and NHM.
Shortlisted applicants will be invited for an interview to take place at the University of Sheffield the w/c 11th February 2019.

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