The QMEE CDT Project proposal database

Welcome to the QMEE CDT Project proposal database. This is a live list of projects proposals put forward by PIs across the CDT partner institutions

PIs/Supervisors will continue to add projects to this list over the next few months, so do keep checking back! You can search the projects using the box below: simply enter some text and press Search to do a text search across all the database fields. If you want to search more finely, the search tool also allows you to search on particular details of the project descriptions: you will see these finer search options appear if you click on the search box.

Click on the view button next to a project to get the full proposal description. If you want to download project details, either for all projects, or for a subset you have searched for, then click on the 'Download details' button.

A new hydro-ecological model for semi-arid Brazilian caatinga forest structure and function
Research emphasis in the tropics has traditionally been on moist forest ecosystems despite the fact that > 50% of the lowland tropics is covered by dry forests or savannas. This project will focus on the dry Caatinga vegetation of North East Brazil, which has suffered from scientific neglect, destruction, and lack of conservation attention, despite a high level of unique (endemic) plant species that are adapted to the region's severe and erratic droughts. Linking to a recently UK/Brazil funded research project, “Nordeste”, this project will take advantage of an extensive new plant and soil data set to probe how gradients in rainfall amount and variability combine with contrasting soil physical and chemical properties to influence the key structural and physiological properties of semi-arid vegetation. For example, we know that differences in climate will affect plant water availability as well as soil biogeochemical properties, and thereby important vegetation properties such as root/shoot ratios. But our knowledge of variations in factors such as rooting depth distributions as affected by biome, climate and/or soils is virtually non-existent despite it having long been known that the Earth System Models on which future climate predictions depend are highly sensitive to parameterisations of such fundamental plant characteristics. Using a mechanistic modelling approach the PhD project will aim to: • Probe how caatinga above ground growth strategies should link to below-ground root architecture for a range of different water availabilities and soil hydraulic properties • Investigate the trade-off between competition for light (above-ground) and water/nutrients (below-ground), and the influence of above-ground canopy architecture on this trade-off through its effect on aerodynamic transfer. • To test whether an optimum species-specific above-ground and below-ground configuration, as dependent on soil and climate conditions and degree of inter-annual climate variability, actually exists. This will be through appropriate simulations with the final bespoke numerical model of ecosystem carbon, heat and water exchanges. The principle tool to be built upon will be a Soil-Vegetation-Atmosphere Transfer (SVAT) model [1-3], serving to describe the fluxes of radiation, heat, water vapour and CO2 between a multi-component Caatinga system (trees, shrubs, herbs, grass, succulents, bare soil) and the atmosphere. This modelling approach already requires a knowledge of above-ground vegetation characteristics, with this project adding below-ground competition for nutrients and water, and an above- and below-ground growth model. As part of model development, a new photosynthesis-conductance parameterisation will be employed involving hydraulic and chemical signalling in the soil–root–xylem–leaf system [4]. This will require a number of hard-to-get plant physiological, root architecture and root/xylem and soil hydraulic parameters to be uniquely made available through the “Nordeste” project. If required, some fieldwork in Brazil for data collection in association with model parameterisation and/or testing will also be possible. (1) Wallace, J.S., Quarterly J. of the Royal Met. Soc, 1997, 123: 1885-1905; (2) Wallace, J. and A. Verhoef, Leaf Development and Canopy Growth, 2000: 204-250 (3) Verhoef, A. and S. Allen, Ecol. Mod., 2000. 127, 245-267; (4)Verhoef, A. and Egea, G., Agr. For. Meteorol., 2014, 191: 22-32.
Anne Verhoef
Jon Lloyd
Magna Soelma Beserra de Moura, D.Sc. em Recursos Naturais Pesquisadora em Agrometeorologia Embrapa Semiárido Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuária (Embrapa) Petrolina/PE Brazil
Development of mathematical theory, Computing, Quantitative data analysis, Ecological observations / data collection
Anne Verhoef
Modelling–to calculate radiation interception, water, energy and CO2 fluxes, as well as competition for nutrients and water, and an above- and below-ground growth model Data-analysis skills–statistical and time series analyses as well as writing data analysis software Data management–detailed input/verification/output data Fieldwork–to collect field data that will inform the models
The project is innovative in that it combines various strands of ecological modelling, i.e. algorithms related to plant (carbon) allocation strategies; above- and below ground competition. Furthermore, it considers a biome that has been studied very little, compared to similar ecosystems. It will rely on data that have been gathered with novel techniques, e.g. terrestrial lidar scanning.
Ecological theory: competition theory, optimization theory, succession theory
Caatinga is considered the most threatened tropical forest type in Latin America. Only 3% of caatinga area is unaltered, with only small fragments and islands of native pristine vegetation remaining. This is caused by widespread land conversion to agriculture over recent decades; restoration attempts are now underway. The proposed model will be used to simulate the implications of restoration.
Dryland woody biome examples are savanna, cerrado and caatinga. Their level of biodiversity, vegetation architecture, and relative grass cover are finely tuned to local climate and soil type, but the exact intricacies remain elusive. Through sensitivity exercises the model should be able to help explain the delicate equilibria of these ecosystems and how climate change would affect them.
Addresses biosystems science including theoretical (ecological modelling) and empirical (data-collection) aspects of environmental physics, hydrology and soil science. Verhoef has extensive expertise in mechanistic model development for improved understanding of interactions within the Soil-Plant-Atmosphere System. Lloyd has extensive expertise in ecological data collection and interpretation.
Community ecology, Ecosystem-scale processes and land use, Ecological/Evolutionary tools, technology & methods
The Applicant will mostly receive one-to-one hands-on training in ecosystem processes and modelling, from a range of experts (Verhoef, Lloyd, and others at UoR), as well on more technical aspects such as programming (e.g. in Python). Technique training will include: numerical methods and modelling, environmental statistics, data exploration, and visualisation.
University of Reading and Imperial College
2017-09-28 12:20:40