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C327: ‘Blue carbon, green wetlands, and brown shores’: Climate change impacts on coastal wetlands and ‘blue carbon’ (Lead Supervisor: Tom Spencer, Geography)

Supervisors: Tom Spencer (Geography) and Iris Möller (Geography)

Importance of the area of research:

Salt marsh coasts have been shown to be important in providing natural coastal protection to many of the world’s low-lying coasts. Little is known, however, of the likely response of the different bio-morphological configurations of such shores to climate-related factors that are predicted to change markedly over the next 50 to 100 years.

Altered temperatures, atmospheric composition, tidal and wave regimes are likely to affect differently configured muddy coastal foreshores in different ways and lead to variations in the amount of sediment and carbon captured by or released from these foreshores. Knowledge of these processes is critical for accurate climate modelling, the management of muddy coasts, their sediment budgets and the future flood and erosion risk faced by communities residing along their shores.

Project summary:

Knowledge of how shallow coastal regions alter in the face of climate is critical for estimates of their carbon and sediment budget and for their management for flood and erosion risk reduction.

This project will explore how climate change will lead to variations in the amount of sediment and carbon captured by or released from muddy coastal foreshores. The potential role of altered temperatures, atmospheric composition, tidal and wave regimes will be established where possible, to improve existing models of cohesive shore stability.

What the student will do:

Using results from existing field, numerical modelling, and remote sensing projects within the CCRU, the student will develop algorithms for the incorporation of geo-spatial environmental data alongside climate change predictions to achieve improved predictions of the release/storage of fine sediments and carbon on upper intertidal shores. The studentship will also investigate the use of emerging time-series of high spatial/spectral resolution satellite products as input into predictive models of upper tidal shore stability under a series of climate change drivers. Additional image acquisition using existing Remote Piloted Aircraft (RPA, UAV or Drone) technology accessible within the Department of Geography may be investigated for the use within this project.

Please contact the lead supervisor directly for further information relating to what the successful applicant will be expected to do, training to be provided, and any specific educational background requirements.


Reef, R., Spencer, T., Moller, I., Lovelock, C.E., Christie, E.K., Mcivor, A.L, Evans, B.R., Tempest, J.A. 2016. The effects of elevated CO2 and eutrophication on surface elevation gain in a European saltmarsh, Glob. Chang. Biol., pp. 1–33. doi: 10.1111/gcb.13396/full.

Mariotti, G., & Carr, J. 2014. Dual role of salt marsh retreat: long-term loss and short-term resilience, Water Resour. Res., pp. 2963–2974. doi:10.1002/2012WR013085

Fagherazzi, S., Kirwan, M.L., Mudd, S.M., Guntenspergen, G.R., Temmerman, S., D’Alpaos, A., van de Koppel, J., Rybczyk, J.M., Reyes, E., Craft, C. & Clough, J., 2012. Numerical models of salt marsh evolution: ecological, geomorphic, and climatic factors. Rev. Geophys, vol. 50. doi:10.1029/2011RG000359.

Follow this link to find out about applying for this project

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