Over the last decade, the UK has experienced some of the most significant and extreme flood events of the last 100 years, and predicted changes in precipitation are expected to increase the frequency and costs of flooding. New approaches to managing flood risk are required, and there is increasing emphasis on Natural Flood Management (NFM) whereby natural processes are used to reduce the risk of flooding and coastal erosion.
NFM has been identified as a core element of the UK government’s new 25-year environment plan to mitigate the effects of flooding. Alongside this, a radical new approach to land management is emerging that has the potential to deliver significant changes to hydrological processes over large spatial scales. Rewilding is a conservation approach focusing on landscape-scale restoration of ecosystems and reinstating natural processes. It can include, but is not limited to, the reintroduction of missing keystone species (cattle, ponies, deer, pigs, beavers). These ecosystem engineering animals can generate significant landscape-scale changes in vegetation structure. Increasingly, the debate about rewilding in the UK recognises the potential for different degrees of ‘wildness’ from a more hands-off approach to land management through to allowing nature to take over.
It is likely that we begin to see many different approaches across this gradient with NFM being a major driver. Combining novel remote sensing methods and plot-scale experimentation, this PhD will seek to characterise vegetation changes for different rewilding settings and trajectories and determine how they modify key hydrological processes. These analyses will inform the development of decision-support tools for modelling rewilding impacts in the context of NFM.
Case Partner and contribution
The PhD will be undertaken in partnership with the National Trust. The National Trust is an independent charity dedicated to environmental and heritage conservation and is the largest membership organisation in the UK. The National Trust is a major landowner and has recently embarked upon a programme of catchment management projects ‘Riverlands’. This programme will see the Trust expand its work on NFM and explore new models for land management and hence this research is very timely. It supports a wide-ranging programme of research to collect evidence needed to deliver internationally renowned conservation; to inform decision making; and to help people understand more about and be inspired by the properties and land in its care.
Collaboration will centre around the use of field sites on National Trust land and co-development of land management planning tools. There will be an opportunity to work closely with National Trust staff and share research findings with the Trust and its partner organisations for example through the Catchment Based Approach.
For further information about the project, please contact Dr Gemma Harvey.
How to apply
Opportunities for funding include London NERC DTP and Queen Mary's Principal’s Postgraduate Research Studentships. For further information about the project, eligibility and future application deadlines in 2019/20, please contact Dr Gemma Harvey.