Uncertainty in future coastal ecosystem state

Statistical quantification of climate change induced uncertainty in future coastal ecosystem state and ecosystem services


Research summary:

Coastal flood damages caused by extreme weather events are expected to increase significantly in the future and human induced climate change will further exacerbate the vulnerability of our societies: to improve our resilience both structural and non-structural measures will be needed. In particular, the European institutions are focusing on the benefits of green infrastructure (nature-based solutions or ecosystem based solutions).

Research is required to understand and statistically quantify the climate change induced uncertainty in future coastal ecosystem state. This study will therefore contribute significantly to wider scientific knowledge of the long-term efficiency of ecosystem based solutions. In addition, the research also aims to identify potential climate thresholds that may lead to ecosystem tipping points in coastal ecosystems. The ecosystem state is assessed through ecological variables (ecosystem indicators) such as primary production (production of chemical energy in organic compounds by living organisms e.g. algae), nutrient concentrations and chlorophyll-a concentration. Further abiotic conditions determining ecosystems state are water temperature, salinity, wave exposure, submergence time, light availability.

Obtaining information about ecosystem indicators is a crucial step for further analysis of higher trophic levels (organisms occupying higher positions in the food chain). Thus, the PhD candidate will play an important role on linking the ecosystem indicators to the assessment of higher trophic levels and habitats. After describing the effect of climate change on the ecological variables and habitats, the PhD research aims to investigate the climate change impacts on ecosystem services. Ecosystem services are the benefits that human societies obtain from the ecosystems such as provisioning- (food and fresh water), regulating- (climate and hazard control), cultural- (recreation and spiritual), and supporting services (nutrient cycling).