PhD: Assessing human uses of the central Congo Basin peatlands via FindAPhD

University of Edinburgh

Edinburgh, , GB

About the Project

The largest peatland complex in the tropics is found in the Congo Basin, in a peat swamp forest with a total area larger than England shared between the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo (Dargie et al. 2017). This supervisory team led the discovery and first publications about this peatland, and have since embarked on a larger project funded by NERC (2018-2023) to better understand how these peatlands formed, how much carbon they store, and what will happen to them under climate change (see

The peatland stores a huge amount of carbon (estimated at about 31 petagrams of carbon, PgC). For comparison, human caused carbon emissions from all sources release about 10 Pg of carbon per year to the atmosphere. This carbon is mostly stored below ground in the peat itself, and could be lost rapidly if the forest above is cleared and/or the water drained, as has happened for example to much of the peat swamp forest of SE Asia.

Fortunately, these peatlands appear to be being utilized in a sustainable manner, experiencing very low rates of deforestation and forest degradation. But this has never been properly assessed, meaning we do not know this for certain, and also that there is no baseline from which to detect any future increases (Dargie et al. 2018). Further, there may be significant oil reserves under the peatlands, the climate is suitable for growing palm oil in plantations, and in some areas there are valuable timber trees in the swamp forests. Although, it is clear that local communities rely on the peat swamp forests for some or all of their livelihoods, typically from fishing, any negative impacts on the forests through external pressures or climate change would negatively impact their ways of life.

We expect a good undergraduate degree (high 2:1 or 1st) in physical, biological or environmental sciences, or equivalent experience. Strong interest in forests and conservation is essential.

Fluency in French will be required during the PhD. Ideally you would have at least CEFR B1 level French, but otherwise will need to do an intensive course during your 1st year.

Please read the full description and requirements and apply via

Funding Notes

Funded by a NERC research grant and will cover fees, 36 months of stipend at UKRI rate. Additional research expenses will be covered by the grant in discussion with the supervisors.