Phd Studentship: River temperature under change: understanding potential of riparian forest and lan

United Kingdom
Jan 13, 2019
Feb 12, 2019
Contract Type
Full Time
Job Type
PhD / Doctoral
It is expected that climate change will impact UK river ecosystems (Hannah & Garner, 2015) as a consequence of extreme low-flows and high river water temperature events (Garner et al., 2017a). The survival and growth of salmonid fish are influenced strongly by river temperatures raising concern that the thermal suitability of rivers could be reduced (Malcolm et al., 2008). As a result, river managers in Scotland have implemented bankside tree planting as a technique to help river ecosystems adapt to climate change by providing increased shading, especially in summer (Garner et al., 2017b). Recent research by the University of Birmingham (UoB) and Marine Scotland Science (MSS) has led to the development of statistical models capable of identifying areas where rivers are hottest and most sensitive to the impacts of climate change (Jackson et al., 2018). However, these models are unable currently to identify precise locations where bankside tree planting will have the greatest benefits in terms of river temperature. Consequently, there remains an urgent need to inform river and land managers about optimal tree planting to promote further resilience of Scottish rivers and fisheries to climate change. The findings of this project will allow CASE partner MSS to inform national policy development while also providing applied management tools for use by fisheries boards and trusts.

In this context, this CENTA2 PhD project aims to use process-based river temperature models to determine how near-stream tree cover, landscape and other environmental factors interact to control river water temperature. These models, which function by simulating the physical processes that drive stream temperature, will shed new light on the locations in which bankside tree planting will have the greatest impact on moderating stream high temperature extremes during summer. The model outputs will be integrated with existing large-scale river temperature monitoring initiatives coordinated by MSS with partners, helping to identify optimal locations for tree planting across Scotland as a climate change adaptation strategy.

CASE partner Marine Scotland Science (MSS) provides expert scientific advice on aquatic environments to the Scottish Government, supporting its policy-making and regulatory activities. This collaboration represents a unique PhD training opportunity and will ensure research findings are put directly into practice. The key project deliverable (‘planting opportunity' GIS metric) will be immediately used by MSS to support river management efforts. The collaboration between UoB and MSS will ensure that the research represents the ideal balance of scientific rigour and real-world utility, enhancing process-based knowledge of river temperatures while delivering a timely and desirable river management product. Without access to MSS' river temperature data and modelling expertise, model implementation and testing would be challenging in a realistic field setting. The student's training experience will be of much greater substance than a similar non-secondment PhD and the experience gained from working in an applied research environment will mean that their employment prospects will be greatly enhanced.

Please contact Professor David M. Hannah ( ; t: 0121 414 7931)
Scotland River Temperature Monitoring Network (SRTMN)
MSS leaflet "Where should we plant trees to protect rivers from high water temperatures?"
Press release "Impact of climate change on Scottish rivers: project to protect wild Atlantic salmon"
Water Crisis:
UNESCO Chair in Water Science
Professor David M. Hannah, University of Birmingham profile


Funding Notes

CENTA studentships are for 3.5 years and are funded by NERC. In addition to the full payment of their tuition fees, successful candidates will receive the following financial support:

Annual stipend, set at £14,777 for 2018/19
Research training support grant (RTSG) of £8,000



Dugdale S.J., Malcolm I.A., Kantola K. and Hannah D.M. (2018), Stream temperatures under contrasting riparian forest cover: an examination of thermal dynamics, microclimates and heat exchanges, Science of the Total Environment, 610, 1375-1389
Jackson F.L., Fryer R.J., Hannah D.M., Millar C.P. and Malcolm I.A. (2018), A spatio-temporal statistical model of maximum daily river temperatures to inform the management of Scotland's Atlantic salmon rivers under climate change, Science of the Total Environment, 612, 1543-1558
Loicq P., Moatar F., Jullian Y., Dugdale S.J .and Hannah D.M. (2018), Improving representation of riparian vegetation shading in a regional stream temperature model using LiDAR data, Science of the Total Environment, 624, 480-490 DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.12.129
Dugdale S.J, Hannah D.M. and Malcolm I.A (2017), River temperature modelling: a review of deterministic approaches and future directions, Earth Science Reviews, 175, 97-113
Garner G., Hannah D.M. and Watts G. (2017a), Climate change and water in the UK: recent scientific evidence for past and future change, Progress in Physical Geography, 41, 154-170
Garner G., Malcolm I.A., Sadler J.P. and Hannah D.M. (2017a), The role of riparian vegetation density, channel orientation and water velocity in determining river temperature dynamics, Journal of Hydrology, 553, 471-485
Jackson F.L, Fryer R.J., Hannah D.M. and Malcolm I.A. (2017), Can river temperature models be transferred between catchments?, Hydrology and Earth Systems Science, 21, 4727-4745
Jackson F.L., Hannah D.M. Fryer R.J., Millar C.P. and Malcolm I.A. (2017), Development of spatial regression models for predicting summer river temperatures from landscape characteristics: implications for land and fisheries management, Hydrological Processes, 31, 1225-1238
Jackson F.L., Malcolm I.A. and Hannah D.M. (2016), A novel approach for the design of large scale river temperature monitoring networks, Hydrology Research, 47, 569-590
Hannah D.M. and Garner G. (2015), River water temperature in the United Kingdom: changes over the 20th century and possible changes over the 21st century, Progress in Physical Geography, 39, 68-92
Garner G., Malcolm I.A., Sadler J.P., Millar C.P. and Hannah D.M. (2015), Inter-annual variability in the effects of riparian woodland on micro-climate, energy exchanges and water temperature of an upland Scottish stream, Hydrological Processes, 29, 1080-1095
Garner G., Malcolm I.A., Sadler J.P. and Hannah D.M. (2014) What causes cooling water temperature gradients in forested stream reaches?, Hydrology and Earth Systems Science, 18, 5361-5376