Vulnerability of coastal dune habitats to climate change and anthropogenic intervention

Theme: Pan-disciplinary

Primary Supervisor:

Helene Burningham

Geography, UCL

Helene Burningham's Profile Picture

Secondary Supervisor:

Julian Thompson

Geography, UCL

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Project Description:

Coastal dune systems comprise a complex network of habitats and species that reflect a range of environmental conditions, not least the access to water. Topographic heterogeneity and the capacity of coastal sand in storing water lead to a spatially varying water table, and the presence of a range of wetlands, from dune slacks to dune depression ponds to saline intrusion marshes, all defined by distinct ecohydrologies. Climate change and anthropogenic interventions are posing several pressures on dune habitats, and as hydrology is particularly sensitive to these, impacts can be seen in changes in species distributions in both time and space. The aim of this PhD is:

– to capture, using high resolution UAS technology and geophysics the full 3D and subsurface structure of the dune system and water table

– to maintain and extend the hydrological monitoring network

– to map and examine vegetation to establish the relationship between species/communities and hydrological regime

– to model the dunescape ecohydrology, and explore the impacts of climate and management change on the system

Policy Impact of Research:

Knowledge and understanding is key to the effective and sustainable management and conservation of important natural systems. Similar to many sites in more remote environments, these dunes are protected areas, but lack management plans. Understanding the relative importance of climate and human impacts is vital to strategic plans to safeguard these environments.


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