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This project is eligible for support from Cardiff Universtiy through the School of Earth & Ocean Sciences.

To apply, please visit the Cardiff University Postgraduate Research portal: http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/for/prospective/postgraduate/applying.html

 Description

Covering over a million square kilometres of Earth’s surface, floodplains are some of the most biologically productive and diverse landforms on the planet.  Despite their considerable ecological and societal importance, outstanding questions remain regarding their origin along the majority of rivers that meander across the landscape.  Such questions have been made even more urgent given recent developments to mitigate flood risk along managed rivers by restoring natural dynamics responsible for the origin and evolution of floodplains, dynamics that enhance topographic complexity important to habitat diversity.  Floodplains can be rapidly modified in response to sudden shifts in climate, flow regulation, and land use, and successful efforts to ensure sustainable floodplain habitat in the context of global change require reliable predictions of floodplain development as directly influenced by both physical and biological processes.  The importance of the interdependence of these processes has been made clear by recent scientific findings that demonstrate the critical role of vegetation in stabilising floodplains and maintaining river courses.  Even so, the mechanisms by which vegetation alters physical processes in ways important to the development of floodplain habitat are not precisely understood.  As a result, our ability to reliably predict the persistence of existing floodplain habitat as well as the development of new habitat is severely constrained.

Utilising the Sacramento and Yuba Rivers of California, this PhD will inform theory explaining the origin of floodplain habitats along meandering rivers.   The research will involve an intensive field campaign in California, assessing patterns of floodplain growth and vegetation recruitment.  Historical data will also be examined within a GIS-framework to provide a temporal record of change for all field sites.  Empirical data will be used to inform a numerical model of habitat change and point bar development.   The results of this project will have significant impact on wider management needs as expressed in the European Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC) and Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC) as well as on the development of agri-environment schemes that emphasise land-water interactions (e.g., Glastir; Catchment Sensitive Farming).

Training

The PhD will have the unique opportunity to develop field skills within diverse natural environments, utilising field kit and training at Cardiff University, UC Davis, CSU Chico, and the University of Lyon.

Field kit includes a terrestrial laser scanner, 3D chirp sub-bottom profiler, echo sounder, acoustic-Doppler current profiler, RTK GPS, and sediment processing equipment.  A high-performance computer will be provided to the student for use during the study, including modelling and data processing software (e.g., Mike 21C, MATLAB, ArcGIS).

Contact Details

Dr José Constantine - constantineja@cardiff.ac.uk