November 9, 2020

Net zero, land use and climate change: what are the ecosystem consequences?

Integrated impacts of transformative land-use change and climate change on grassland biodiversity, ecosystem services and land carbon uptake

Why this project is important: Ensuring grasslands, which cover 40% of the UK, provide a suite of ecosystem goods and services and store natural capital is critical for societal needs. However, new understanding of grassland ecosystem response to climate and land use change and predictive capabilities are required to promote strategic land-use decisions that support net zero carbon emission targets, mitigating the climate and ecological emergencies.

The focus: This project will further understanding of the impacts of land-use and climate change on grassland biodiversity, ecosystem services, natural capital and meeting the net zero target. Tree planting and solar parks – two topical and emerging land-use changes – will be used as test-beds, utilising extensive existing datasets in addition to the collation of new field data. The approach can be tailored to those who wish to apply their computational and numerical skills to environmental challenges or those with environmental science expertise who wish to focus on modelling. In addition to developing new knowledge and modelling capabilities, there is the opportunity to deliver evidence to inform policy and practice.

What’s in it for the candidate: The successful candidate will develop expertise in an important and emerging sector, developing their modelling, field and laboratory skills whilst addressing increasingly urgent environmental problems. The successful candidate will become an expert in land-use change, biodiversity and ecosystem services and environmental modelling. They will develop a broad suite of relevant skills (with the balance reflecting the candidates interest) including experimental design, field and laboratory skills, modelling, statistics, and communication for different audiences, ensuring they are highly employable in a range of sectors. The project is in collaboration with Low Carbon, with whom they will undertake an internship (remit to be decided with the student) to gain experience of the industry. Given the relevance of the topic they will also be involved in producing industry and policy orientated-outputs, providing additional experience. The student will be embedded in the supportive Energy & Environment Team at Lancaster and integrated in research teams in CEH and Birmingham, providing access to a wide range of training opportunities, facilities and networks. There is also the potential for an overseas research visit.

We are looking for an enthusiastic and determined student who wishes to work with us on this topical and timely project with a minimum of a UK Honours Degree at 2:1 level. The project would suit a candidate with a background in environmental science, ecology, biological science, or geography who wishes to develop modelling skills, and undertake field and lab work. Alternatively, we also welcome candidates with a background in maths, computer science, data science, engineering or related discipline that has provided programming experience (for example, in R, Matlab, Fortran, Python) who wishes to apply their skills to environmental science and learn field and lab skills. Interest in environmental issues is key but no previous experience is required as full training will be provided.

Interested applicants are strongly advised to get in touch to learn more about the PhD project. Please contact Dr Alona Armstrong,