PhD

(fully funded for European/UK student: fee, stipend, research budget)

Title:
Effects of land management practices on ecosystem functioning in complex agro-forestry systems in East Africa


Agricultural expansion in the tropics is leading to widespread biodiversity loss, altered ecosystem functioning and impaired ecosystem service delivery. Strategies to mitigate or offset this loss of biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in tropical agricultural landscapes include the establishment or maintenance of more complex, biologically diverse production systems (e.g. polycultures, agro-forestry systems) or actively managing the landscape matrix in which production systems are embedded to enhance landscape-scale biodiversity and ecosystem service delivery (e.g. introduction of wildlife corridors, rehabilitation of degraded forest remnants, tree restoration on and around farms). However, the relative efficacy of these different mitigation strategies is still in question, making it difficult for the scientific community to provide stakeholders and policymakers with clear guidance as to the best strategies to adopt in order to enhance the overall ecological and environmental sustainability of tropical agricultural production systems.

This PhD project will aim to address this knowledge gap by investigating how management interventions impact ecosystem functioning and ecosystem service delivery in agro-forestry systems in Tanzania. This research will integrate with on-going activities undertaken by us, the FORCE (http://force-experiment.com), Reforest Africa (http://reforestafrica.com/partners/) and STEP (https://www.facebook.com/SouthernTanzaniaElephantProgram) programmes. The PhD candidate will join an international and multidisciplinary team of researchers from the University of York, University of the Sunshine Coast (Australia), University of Leeds (UK), Sokoine University of Agriculture (Tanzania), Reforest Africa, Missouri Botanic Gardens (USA), Tanzania Tree Seed Agency, Tanzania Forest Service, Tanzania National Parks Authority and the Millennium Seed Bank (UK). Working in concert with colleagues in the ecological and social sciences, the PhD candidate will develop an innovative, independent, project combining data science and field based research to explore how changes in management practices alter ecosystem functioning. Potential areas of research include (but are not limited to): the effects of vegetation management on carbon cycling and ecosystem carbon balance; quantifying the impact of soil management practices on plant nutrient availability and/or soil moisture; or use of spatially explicit models to investigate the benefits of functional biodiversity for crop production within the study landscape. Logistic support in the field is provided through local partners and existing projects, which also provide complementary data for comprehensive understanding.

Please contact Prof Yit Arn Teh (YitArn.Teh@newcastle.ac.uk) or Dr Marion Pfeifer (marion.pfeifer@newcastle.ac.uk) for informal queries or further information. Please note: this is internally funded at Newcastle UNiversity. The award is not sufficient to cover tuition fees for international students, unfortunately.