Climate Change Impacts on Forest Canopy Temperatures: From Mechanisms to Implications


Climate Change Impacts on Forest Canopy Temperatures: From Mechanisms to Implications


Project Description


Dr Sophie Fauset (School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Plymouth) contact me

Professor Ralph Fyfe (School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Plymouth)

Professor Manuel Gloor (School of Geography, University of Leeds)

Professor Robert Mackenzie (School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham)

Project Background

The Earth’s surface is warming. The forest carbon cycle is sensitive to high temperatures (Hubau et al. 2020, Sullivan et al. 2020) and given that forests store 861 ± 66 petagrams of carbon (Pan et al. 2011), their response to climate change is crucial in understanding future trajectories. Temperature is a key variable governing plant physiological rates, but it is tissue temperature rather than air temperature which is relevant. Leaves are at the interface of the atmosphere and biosphere, and their temperatures often differ from air temperatures, depending on microclimate and species-specific morphology and physiology (Fauset et al. 2018). However, to date there has been little large-scale, in-depth analysis of leaf temperature processes across sites and species, limiting our understanding of forest response to climate change. This project will fill this knowledge gap.

Research Methodology

The project will be part of a global network monitoring forest canopy temperatures (netCTF) using infrared cameras at 13 sites across 5 continents. Focal sites for this project will be a tropical semi-deciduous forest in Ghana and a mature oak woodland in the UK ( You will analyse responses of forest canopies and tree species to climate fluctuations across the netCTF sites, elucidating whether and why canopy temperature processes differ between sites, with a focus on extreme climate events. Fieldwork at focal sites will produce datasets of plant functional traits (e.g. Fauset et al. 2018) and physiological responses to temperature (e.g. Tiwari et al. 2020) to inform on the mechanisms of temperature control and implications of high temperatures.


You will gain a broad skillset relevant to multiple careers, including leading field campaigns in the UK and Ghana, technical skills in sensor technology, and analysis of big data. You will develop an international network through collaboration with the netCTF team, produce scientific papers of the highest standard and present at international conferences.

Person Specification

A degree in a relevant subject (e.g. environmental science, geography, biology); candidates from numerical disciplines (e.g. physics, engineering, computer science) are also encouraged to apply. Experience of programming, fieldwork and environmental sensors are desirable.


  • 1. Fauset S, et al. [including Gloor E] 2018. Differences in leaf thermoregulation and water use strategies between three co-occurring Atlantic forest tree species. Plant, Cell & Environment, 41, 1618-1631.
  • 2. Tiwari R et al. [including Fauset S, Gloor E] 2020. Photosynthetic quantum efficiency in south-eastern Amazonian trees may be already affected by climate change. Plant, Cell & Environment DOI: 10.1111/pce.13770
  • 3. Hubau W et al. [including Fauset S, Gloor E] 2020. Asynchronous carbon sink saturation in African and Amazonian tropical forests. Nature, 579, 80-87.
  • 4. Sullivan M et al. [including Fauset S, Gloor E] 2020. Long-term thermal sensitivity of Earth’s tropical forests. Science, 368, 869-874.
  • 5. Pan Y et al. 2011. A large and persistent carbon sink in the world's forests. Science, 333, 988-993.

Key Information

  • This project has been shortlisted for funding by the ARIES NERC DTP and will start on 1st October 2021. The closing date for applications is 23:59 on 12th January 2021.
  • Successful candidates who meet UKRI’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship, which covers fees, stipend (£15,285 p.a. for 2020-21) and research funding. For the first time in 2021/22 international applicants (EU and non-EU) will be eligible for fully-funded UKRI studentships. Please note ARIES funding does not cover visa costs (including immigration health surcharge) or other additional costs associated with relocation to the UK.
  • ARIES students benefit from bespoke graduate training and ARIES provides £2,500 to every student for access to external training, travel and conferences. Excellent applicants from quantitative disciplines with limited experience in environmental sciences may be considered for an additional 3-month stipend to take advanced-level courses in the subject area.
  • ARIES is committed to equality, diversity, widening participation and inclusion in all areas of its operation. We encourage enquiries and applications from all sections of the community regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation and transgender status. Academic qualifications are considered alongside significant relevant non-academic experience.
  • All ARIES studentships may be undertaken on a part-time or full-time basis, visa requirements notwithstanding
  • For further information, please contact the supervisor. To apply for this Studentship click on the “Apply now” link below.

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