Title: Reconstructing, Understanding and Modelling Subalpine Forest Dynamics to Support Carbon Sequestration, Biodiversity Conservation, and Infrastructure Protection
Context — The tree line is a major characteristic of alpine landscapes, resulting from the interaction of many factors. Despite a complex determinism, the recent expansion of alpine forest limits is largely attributed to land use changes and global warming. Recent publications suggest that climate change and resulting forest expansion have already had a negative impact on alpine biodiversity, significantly modifying functions such as carbon sequestration and nutrient cycling.
Objectives — In this PhD project, we plan to quantify, understand, and model the spatial and temporal dynamics of the French subalpine forests, from the forest minimum of 1850 to their current maximal expansion. Besides, we also want to quantify the ecological impacts of this dynamics to propose actions to mitigate its negative consequences (e.g. loss of biodiversity), but also to seize the opportunities it represents (e.g. increase of carbon sequestration).
Approaches — Our knowledge of the distribution of the French forests is mainly based on three distinct sources (the ‘Etat Major’ map; the BD forêt ® versions 1 and 2, and a couple of aerial photographic layers) that we will compare for the French mountain regions (Alps, Pyrenees, Corsica). From these digital documents and a digital terrain model, we will assess the spatial and temporal dynamics (expansion and densification) of the subalpine forests. These dynamics will then be analysed and interpreted using economic, social, historical and environmental data.
Expected results and impacts — This project will provide pivotal results on the dynamics of the upper forest limit, which is considered a key element of the Alpine landscape and a crucial marker of the environmental changes, yet still resists our understanding. These results will be used to understand the influence of human and environmental factors on these dynamics, and then to predict the position of sensitive areas where specific actions should be considered, whether for biodiversity conservation, carbon sequestration, or maintenance of ecosystem services.
Supervision of the PhD thesis
Supervisor: Cyrille Rathgeber (UMR Silva, INRAE Nancy – Grand Est, France)
Co-Supervisor: Laurent Bergès (UMR LESSEM, INRAE Grenoble, France)
Other members of the executive team: Sandrine Chauchard (UMR Silva, Lorraine University, France), Nathalie Leroy (UMR Silva, INRAE Nancy – Grand Est) & Jean-Luc Dupouey (UMR Silva, INRAE Nancy – Grand Est)
The candidate must have a Master 2 in ecology or geography (obtained with mention preferably) and demonstrate a strong motivation for the subject. The candidate should have a strong background in field ecology, GIS, data analysis (preferably with R), and scientific writing. If possible, he/she should have completed an internship or a higher education course abroad and read, write and speak English well. He/she should also show an ability to construct a reasoning that integrates the interdisciplinary dimension of human-environment interactions.
How to apply
The application file must be sent by email before midnight on 30 September 2021 to the supervisor of the PhD Thesis (firstname.lastname@example.org), with copy to the other members of the executive team (email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com).
The application file must include: a CV, a letter of motivation, a one-page-maximum scientific project (with a list of references) related to the proposed subject, transcripts and diploma of the master, the master’s thesis (if defended) and possibly letters of recommendation.
Interested candidates are invited to contact the PhD supervisor before to prepare their application in order to check his/her eligibility and obtain more information on the project.
A first selection of candidates will take place early October. The selected candidates will be auditioned by the executive team mid-October.
The selected candidate is expected to start his/her PhD in November 2021 at UMR Silva (INRAE Nancy – Grand Est, France).