Lund University, Department of Physical Geograhy and Ecosystem Science

Lund University was founded in 1666 and is repeatedly ranked among the world’s top universities. The University has around 47 000 students and more than 8 800 staff based in Lund, Helsingborg and Malmö. We are united in our efforts to understand, explain and improve our world and the human condition.

Lund University welcomes applicants with diverse backgrounds and experiences. We regard gender equality and diversity as a strength and an asset.

Project description

Drought is increasingly impacting Europe's ecosystems, including Swedish forests. In Sweden, new research has shown that primary forests (also called old-growth and natural forests) fared better during the 2018 drought than managed forests. We do not know enough about what leads to more or less drought resistance in forests, and therefore do not know why primary forests are more drought-resistant than managed forests. Potential factors include the amount of water available in the landscape, the size and depth of tree roots, the age of the trees, biodiversity, and ground vegetation. This project will study Sweden's most natural primary forests to understand why primary forests have better drought resistance and the implications of this for carbon sequestration and biodiversity.

Unlike other European countries, Sweden still has a considerable amount of forest that has not been affected by modern forestry, but these forests are now being logged at a rapid pace. This potentially alters a range of factors that are important for forest drought resistance. It leads to less water in the landscape due to soil drainage and changes in vegetation composition, tree size, age, and diversity. However, it is difficult to know which of these (or other) factors are most important for the drought resistance of primary forests, and thus difficult to estimate how forest management may have affected drought resistance. Ecosystems are complex, with a large number of factors and conditions varying between locations. It is therefore important to study a larger number of factors simultaneously to understand how they relate and what is the most important factor.

Within the research group, we have developed the only known map of primary forests in Sweden and established a network of sample plots where vegetation and soil have been sampled. This information, along with complementary field data collection, will form the basis of the project. With this unique information, the project aims to increase our understanding of the factors that contribute to greater drought resistance in primary forests. The project aims to investigate what makes primary forests more drought-resistant than managed forests and map how these factors are represented in managed forests.

To quantify the impact of drought, existing already collected tree cores that and tree cores from additional sampling will be used and combined with satellite data. By studying the distance between annual rings and other variables, the project aims to estimate drought stability in various locations in primary forests throughout Sweden, which otherwise vary in the aforementioned factors. These data will be combined with field measurements of trees, ground vegetation, soil moisture, topographical variables, and other variables related to the local environment. This involves a significant amount of fieldwork in relatively inaccessible locations. Analysis of collected and existing data will be carried out using statistical and dynamic models, GIS, and computational tools.

The main task for a doctoral student is to engage in their research education, which includes participation in research projects and research education courses. Tasks may also include participation in teaching and other departmental work, but not more than 20% of the working time.

The PhD student will be admitted to the Environmental Science PhD programme with a workplace at the Department of Physical Geography and Ecosystem Science.

Admission requirements

A person meets the general admission requirements for third-cycle courses and study programmes if he or she:

  • has been awarded a second-cycle qualification, or
  • has satisfied the requirements for courses comprising at least 240 credits of which at least 60 credits were awarded in the second cycle, or
  • has acquired substantially equivalent knowledge in some other way in Sweden or abroad.

A person meets the specific admission requirements for third cycle studies in Environmental science if he or she has:

  • Have performed an independent academic work of atleast 30 ECTS (i.e. a master thesis), or in other way have gathered comparable experience.

Additional requirements:

  • Very good oral and written proficiency in English.
  • Knowledge of computer-based calculations including GIS
  • Proficiency in scientific programming
  • A second level degree in physical geography, environmental science or closely related subject 

Assessment criteria

Selection for third-cycle studies is based on the student’s potential to profit from such studies. The assessment of potential is made primarily on the basis of academic results from the first and second cycle. Special attention is paid to the following:

  1. Knowledge and skills relevant to the thesis project and the subject of study.
  2. An assessment of ability to work independently and to formulate and tackle research problems.
  3. Written and oral communication skills
  4. Other experience relevant to the third-cycle studies, e.g. professional experience.

Other assessment criteria:

  • Experience in field work
  • Drivers license
  • Experience in inventory of forest carbon storage
  • Experience in inventory of ground vegetatation
  • Experience in treatment and analysis of forest inventory data
  • Experience in collection and analysis of tree cores
  • Experience in dendrochronology and dendroclimatology
  • Experience in collection and lab analysis of soil samples
  • Good skills in GIS Good skills in programming, statistics and programming tools, where skills in using Matlab is a strong merit
  • Experience in formulating and answering research questions 

Consideration will also be given to good collaborative skills, drive and independence, and how the applicant, through his or her experience and skills, is deemed to have the abilities necessary for successfully completing the third cycle programme.

Terms of employment
Only those admitted to third cycle studies may be appointed to a doctoral studentship. Doctoral studentships are regulated in the Higher Education Ordinance (1993:100), chapter 5, 1-7 §§. 

Instructions on how to apply

Applications shall be written in English and include a cover letter stating the reasons why you are interested in the position and in what way the research project corresponds to your interests and educational background. The application must also contain a CV, degree certificate or equivalent, and other documents you wish to be considered (grade transcripts, contact information for your references, letters of recommendation, etc.).

Welcome to aplly!


Type of employment Temporary position
First day of employment 2024-08-20
Salary Monthly salary
Number of positions 1
Full-time equivalent 100
City Lund
County Skåne län
Country Sweden
Reference number PA2024/2064
  • Anders Ahlström, 0732028487
Union representative
  • OFR/ST:Fackförbundet ST:s kansli, 046-2229362
  • SACO:Saco-s-rådet vid Lunds universitet,
  • SEKO: Seko Civil, 046-2229366
Published 18.Jun.2024
Last application date 01.Aug.2024 11:59 PM CEST
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