PhD: The impacts Of Rapid Climate Change During Dansgaard-Oechsger Cycles On Vegetation Dynamics And Biodiversity

University of Reading - Geography & Environmental Science, SAGES

Project Overview:

Analyses of recent changes in the distribution of trees have raised concerns that many species will not be able to migrate quickly enough to keep up with the rapid climate changes projected for the 21st century. However, large and rapid climate changes have occurred before in the shape of Dansgaard-Oeschger (D-O) cycles and ice-age terminations, and palaeoecological evidence shows that tree species distributions shifted rapidly in response. Although the causes and patterns of rapid climate changes in the past were very different from those expected in the future, the magnitude and speed of these changes are comparable, offering an opportunity to quantify the velocity of vegetation changes in response to large and rapid climate changes. This project will examine the impact of multiple examples of Dansgaard-Oechger cycles on terrestrial vegetation dynamics and biodiversity, making use of the fact that each of the cycles provides a different combination of overall magnitude of change and speed. The project will draw on existing pollen data covering the last glacial at multiple sites globally from the ACER database to reconstruct changes in vegetation cover through time. Advanced data analysis techniques combined with process-based modelling will be used to quantify the velocity of the vegetation response to climate and other environmental factors. This work will ultimately allow a reassessment of the vulnerability of tree biodiversity and ecosystem services to rapid climate change in the future.


The ideal candidate for this project would have a Masters in an appropriate science, good programming and numerical skills, an understanding of the mechanisms of past climate change, and an interest in applying palaeoclimate information to improve our understanding of biosphere dynamics. Good team and communication skills are essential.

Funding Details:  

This PhD position is fully-funded by the ERC project “GC2.0: Unlocking the past for a clearer future”

How to apply:   

Please submit an application for a PhD in Environmental Science at: quoting the reference GS17-194 in the ‘Scholarships applied for’ box which appears within the Funding section.

Application Deadline: 

31st October 2017

Further Enquiries:  


NB: Where a candidate is successful in being awarded funding, this will be confirmed via a formal studentship award letter which is provided separately from any Offer of Admission and which is subject to standard checks for eligibility and other criteria. 

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South East England