PhD – Dynamics of Ecosystem Services in Forest Ecosystems

The concept of ecosystem services (ES) – the benefits provided by ecosystems to people – has become the subject of major international scientific and policy focus. In the UK, results from the National Ecosystem Assessment have highlighted the exceptionally important role of forest ecosystems in provision of multiple ES. However, forests are becoming the focus of increasing concern, because of the combined effects of climate change, spread of novel pests and diseases, and widespread increases in browsing pressure. Such factors could potentially interact to fundamentally alter forest ecosystems, their associated biodiversity and the provision of ES, which could impact negatively on human livelihoods and the national economy. This project will therefore examine the dynamics of ES in selected forest landscapes, through the use of spatially explicit modelling approaches supported by appropriate field and laboratory research.

The scientific analysis of ecosystem services (ES) has developed rapidly in recent years. There has been a series of papers on this theme published in very high impact journals (Science, PNAS, Nature), including those produced by BU staff. The current project will lie at the cutting edge of this research, with its focus on mapping and valuing ES at the landscape scale, and exploring their dynamics using spatially explicit modelling approaches. This will enable trade-offs between different ES to be identified, an issue of high scientific value. However, the most significant contribution of this research could be in the analysis of tipping points in forest ecosystems, and the early detection of ecosystem collapse. Very few studies have so far demonstrated such rapid transitions in the provision of ES, despite widespread concern that such shifts may be imminent in many ecosystems. We believe that the forest ecosystems of the UK currently provide examples of this process occurring, which we will examine and document during this research. We believe that this could therefore deliver very significant scientific impact. The project will also be formally linked with the NERC BESS programme, to maximise its academic impact.

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Closing date 25th October 2013.

For further information please contact Dr Elena Cantarello ( and Prof Adrian Newton (

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