Restoring biodiversity and functional connectivity in Sumatra’s community managed forests


Restoring biodiversity and functional connectivity in Sumatra’s community managed forests


Project Description


Dr Matthew Struebig, University of Kent – Contact Me

Dr Lindsay Banin, UK-CEH

Prof Bob Smith, University of Kent -DICE

Dr David Seaman, University of Kent – DICE


Land-use change and resource extraction continue to impact tropical forests, bringing negative consequences for biodiversity and ecological functions. The UN Decade on Restoration seeks positive outcomes in these degraded forests for biodiversity, climate change and people. However, this ‘triple win’ will be hard to achieve due to several ongoing challenges.


The immense ecological challenges of restoration aside, interventions are plagued by insufficient monitoring data, making it difficult to evaluate whether long-term environmental benefits can be achieved. The time, expertise and personnel required to monitor forests and biodiversity using conventional methods are too high to be cost-effective. While remote sensing technologies have greatly improved forest monitoring, technological applications to facilitate biodiversity monitoring in tropical countries have yet to be fully investigated in restoration settings. Biodiversity is often assumed to simply return after habitats are restored, with very little supporting evidence – the so called ‘field of dreams’ hypothesis.


This PhD project will address this by developing efficient methodologies for monitoring biodiversity in newly-established forest restoration settings in Indonesia.

The student will undertake some of the first ecological surveys of animal biodiversity and habitat functionality in community-managed forests in Sumatra. They will use remote-sensing technologies (camera trapping and/or bioacoustics) to sample the vertebrate community in restoration versus control areas, and use these data to develop biodiversity indicators for continued monitoring. They will also utilise satellite-based data to help define forest degradation and regeneration, and use this information to map functional connectivity at the landscape scale. They will have opportunity to validate these data from other sources, compare restoration treatments and/or track variation in biodiversity outcomes over the timeframe of the project.

The project is embedded within a new collaboration between the University of Kent and UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, with conservation practitioners and local communities in Indonesia. The team are developing an evidence-base for forest restoration and effective monitoring, while helping communities access funding. The PhD results therefore have strong potential to influence environmental practices on the ground.

Person Specification

The successful candidate will have experience of ecological fieldwork, strong analytical skills (including GIS), and be familiar with sustainability policies relevant to tropical countries.


  • Deere N, Guillera-Arroita G, Swinfield T, … and Struebig M. (2020) Maximizing the value of forest restoration for tropical mammals by detecting three-dimensional habitat associations, PNAS, pp. 26254-26262. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2001823117.
  • Santika T, Wilson K, Budiharta S, …and Struebig M. (2019) Heterogeneous impacts of community forestry on forest conservation and poverty alleviation: evidence from Indonesia, People and Nature. pp. 204-219. doi: 10.1002/pan3.25.
  • Budiharta S, Meijaard E, Gaveau D, Struebig M, …. and Wilson, K. A. (2018) Restoration to offset the impacts of developments at a landscape scale reveals opportunities, challenges and tough choices, Global Environmental Change. pp. 152-161. doi: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2018.07.008.
  • Hayward R, Banin L et al. (2021) Three decades of post-logging tree community recovery in naturally regenerating and actively restored dipterocarp forest in Borneo. Forest Ecology & Management doi: 10.1016/j.foreco.2021.119036
  • Smith R, et al. (2022) Developing a nature recovery network using systematic conservation planning, Conservation Science and Practice. doi: 10.1111/csp2.578

Key Information

  • This project has been shortlisted for funding by the ARIES NERC DTP and will start on 1st October 2023. The closing date for applications is 23:59 on 11th January 2023.
  • Successful candidates who meet UKRI’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship, which covers fees, stipend (£17,668 p.a. for 2022/23) and research funding. International applicants are eligible for fully-funded ARIES studentships including fees. Please note however that ARIES funding does not cover additional costs associated with relocation to, and living in, 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, on top of all Research Costs associated with the project. 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.
  • 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 non-academic experience, and our recruitment process considers potential with the same weighting as past 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 follow the instructions at the bottom of the page or click the 'apply now' link.
  • ARIES is required by our funders to collect Equality and Diversity Information from all of our applicants. The information you provide will be used solely for monitoring and statistical purposes; it will remain confidential, and will be stored on the UEA sharepoint server. Data will not be shared with those involved in making decisions on the award of Studentships, and will have no influence on the success of your application. It will only be shared outside of this group in an anonymised and aggregated form. You will be ask to complete the form by the University to which you apply.

Applications are open

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