Effects of functional diversity on the resilience of forest plantation to drought

As part of the recently funded BIODIVERSA project MixForChange, we have an opening for a 3-yr PhD position on the effects of functional diversity on the resilience of forest plantation to drought. This position will be based at INRAe (URFM) and Cirad (Eco&Sols). Starting mid 2021.

Project description:

Forest restoration is key in climate change mitigation strategies. The « Bonn challenge » targets 350 millions hectares of forest planting by 2030. However increasing drought related to climate change can jeopardize plantation success. An increasing number of studies support the idea that species and functional diversity can mitigate drought effects, thereby improving forest resilience to climate change. Using tree mixture instead of monoculture in plantations would therefore be a key solution to improve forest plantation resilience to climate change. So far the mechanisms driving the tree diversity vs drought-resilience relationships are poorly known, which precludes the use of resilient tree mixtures at large scales. 

The overall objective of the MixForChange project (https://treedivnet.ugent.be/ProjectMixForChange.html) is to promote mixed-species forest plantations as nature-based solutions to fight the causes and consequences of climate change, by providing science-based recommendations and guidelines endorsed by forest owners, man-agers and policy-makers. The project will rely on an existing unique global network of forest biodiversity experiments (TreeDivNet, http://www.treedivnet.ugent.be/index.html), which are based on a common, statistically sound design that allows for the effects of tree species composition on ecosystem services and functions to be tested.

The major task of this PhD project is to explore the mechanisms involved in the tree diversity vs drought-resilience relationships. The successful candidate will conduct ecophysiological and soil geophysical measurements, to compare water use between mixtures and monocultures in two experiments of the TreeDivNet. To this aim, she/he will combine tree transpiration measurement (using sapflow monitoring) to soil resistivity and leaf water potential measurement. Key functional traits linked to tree resistance and resilience to drought, such as xylem resistance to cavitation or minimal stomatal conductance, will be measured at larger scale, along diversity gradients. The successful candidate will also use process-based models currently developed and use in our group to produce testable hypotheses regarding the effects of diversity on tree water use and survival that will be confronted to observed data.

Candidate profile:

We are looking for a highly motivated person with a strong background in forest ecology, tree physiology and modelling, or related fields. Demonstrated ability to carry out research projects and statistical background are desirable. English proficiency is indispensable, as strong interactions with the different research groups involved in MixForChange are expected. This project will be jointly supervised by Nicolas Martin StPaul (INRAe), Joannès Guillemot (Cirad) and Guerric le Maire (Cirad). The position is based in southern France, in Avignon and/or Montpellier (location can be discussed and decided with the successful candidate). Both cities offer vibrant living environment, with a large panel of cultural events and possibilities of outdoor activities.

Applications will be accepted until 26/02/2021.

Applications and questions regarding the project should be addressed to Nicolas Martin StPaul (nicolas.martin@inrae.fr), Joannès Guillemot (joannes.guillemot@cirad.fr) and Guerric le Maire (guerric.le_maire@cirad.fr).

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