PhD project available on predicting impacts of extreme climate events in major forestry species

We are seeking a PhD student to begin October 1st 2018 looking at understanding and predicting impacts of extreme climate events in major forestry species. The project will quantify the impact and legacy of droughts on forest growth based on Pinus and Picea tree ring chronologies combined with UK soils and climate data to identify and plan for adverse impacts on the UK forestry sector. We will also compare drought impacts and legacies against those apparent in equivalent tree ring chronologies from Spain as an analogue to future climatic conditions for the UK and at additional UK sites predicted to be at highest risk according to climate change forecasts.

The project will be guided by the following questions:
[1] Q: How widespread are historical drought impacts on UK forest trees and are historical impacts more severe in sites currently deemed to be high risk? UK growth chronologies will be assessed against UK climate and soils data, for growth impacts during the year of historical severe/prolonged water deficit.
[2] Q: How long-lasting are legacy impacts of severe/prolonged water deficits on forest growth? UK growth chronologies will be investigated for post drought-year growth impacts against UK climate and soils data.
[3] Q: How do different forest management treatments (e.g. tree density) impact susceptibility of forest stands to drought? UK growth chronology derived indices of drought impact will be compared with forest stand management information, with targeted new assessments for alternative management systems (e.g. low impact silvicultural systems). This will provide new evidence on the interaction between competition and drought impact.
[4] Q: What is the predicted impact of future water deficits? UK growth chronology derived indices of drought impact will be compared with UKCP09 Weather Generator (WG) data and UKCP18 probabilistic data, soils data (available water holding capacity), and drought indices using statistical and process-based dendroclimatological modelling approaches.
[5] Q: How do UK forest tree ring chronologies compare with Southern European studies on drought impacts? Comparisons will be carried out between tree ring data already collected in Spain on Pinus sylvestris and related pine species and equivalent UK data. A comparison of the climatic conditions and derived drought indices for the two countries will provide insights into current forest response to drought in Spain in relation to broadly comparable expected future UK conditions.

The project is available to European Union citizens and will be supervised by Prof Alistair Jump (University of Stirling, Scotland) and Dr Mike Perks (Forest Research, Edinburgh) with collaboration from Dr Michal Petr (Forest Research) and Prof Maurizio Mencuccini (CREAF, Barcelona).