Quantifying interactions between topographic variability and forest structure

Theme: Environmental Physics & Mathematical Modelling

Primary Supervisor:

Stuart Grieve

School of Geography, QMUL

Stuart Grieve's Profile Picture

Secondary Supervisor:

Geraldene Wharton

School of Geography, QMUL

Geraldene Wharton's Profile Picture

Additional Supervisor(s):
Emily Lines (University of Cambridge)

Project Description:

Geomorphology and other abiotic factors are known to drive variation in ecological communities, but relationships between geo- and bio-diversity are poorly understood, particularly across spatial and temporal scales. Such relationships are typically ignored by forest modellers, but there is mounting evidence that topography and microsite conditions play a critical role in large-scale, long-term forest processes including regeneration, diversity, and structure and successional dynamics.

This project will work at the interface between ecological and geomorphological research to quantify the interrelationship between biotic and abiotic factors which govern forested landscape evolution. The student will collect ground, Terrestrial Laser Scanning, and drone LiDAR and photogrammetry data at selected forested sites in the UK and/or Europe, targeting sites with high topographic variation. They will also have access to data from forests across Europe with contrasting biodiversity, collected in 2021 as part of Dr Lines’ UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship, and the student will have the opportunity to work alongside researchers from that project.

The student will process these data using existing software and will have the opportunity to undertake training in complex quantitative analysis and to develop bespoke algorithms, depending on their specific interests and background. Analysis of airborne LiDAR data will be performed using LSDTopoTools (http://LSDTopoTools.github.io), a state of the art software package developed at QMUL in collaboration with colleagues from Edinburgh, Glasgow and Durham Universities. Full training in these methods, alongside opportunities to collaborate with other users of LSDTopoTools, will be provided to the successful student.

Policy Impact of Research:

In the UK, a significant amount of forested land lies upslope of infrastructure (rail lines, roads, power lines), and it is therefore vital to understand how changing ecological properties will impact geomorphic hazard.

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