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Understanding and improving wind risk assessment for forests - combining geotechnical and wind engineering and plant science

Project Description

Windthrow arises as a result of the interaction of the wind with the tree(s) and the corresponding wind-induced force exceeding the root anchorage strength of the tree. The turbulent nature of the wind results in a time varying wind-load on the tree, which in turn introduces the dynamic motion of the tree(s). A simple engineering analysis shows that a dynamic force of a certain value can significantly exceed its static counterpart. Thus, the current empirical models which are based on static tree pulls in order to establish tree strength and give some indication of the effect of forest management on stability may not fully represent the range of forest or environmental conditions which trees are subjected to (e.g. tree pumping, rotating motion, effect of severe gales, transfer of kinetic energy among tree crowns) especially the uncertainties associated with the predicted increasing incidence of severe winter gales associated with climate change. For example, the sequencing of extreme events where extremely high rainfall resulting in waterlogged soils is followed by severe wind gusts. The effect of the forest canopy on wind dynamics including high level turbulence and generating wind shear is poorly understood and this research hope to provide a deeper understanding on how wind interacts with the forest canopy.
An idealised numerical model of the tree will be developed covering both the stem and root system. Previous work on crops has shown that it is the latter which is key to understanding the issue and as such, a physical model will also be developed which will enable calibration of the numerical model. The research aims to use innovative methods to including physical testing in a wind tunnel to simulate different wind speeds and directions and a variety of turbulent conditions with tree models in order to predicted realistic windthrow velocities for different soils and as a function of tree height. Combined with the numerical modelling, the aim is to provide insight on the terminal height of trees in response to wind loading and the influence of forest design on the vulnerability of forests to windthrow.

Funding Notes

Full payment of tuition fees at Research Councils UK fee level for year of entry (£4,327 in 2019/20), to be paid by the University;
An annual maintenance grant at current UK Research Councils rates (national minimum doctoral stipend for 2019/20 is £15,009), to be paid in monthly instalments to the Leverhulme Trust Doctoral Scholar by the University.
All studentships will come with a minimum of £3,000 Research Training Support Grant. This can be increased, if there are justified project costs, up to a maximum of £12,000.
Funding is available for UK or EU students only.

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