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PhD Climate Effects of Land Resoration in Africa

Land degradation is a world wide problem caused by non-sustainable management of farm and grazing lands. Strongly reduced vegetation cover leads to eroded, low quality soils, decreased rainfall infiltration and groundwater recharge, increased runoff loaded ...

12 maanden geleden


Bornsesteeg, Wageningen, Gelderland
Tijdelijk contract / Tijdelijke opdracht
Uren per week:
38 - 38 uur


Land degradation is a world wide problem caused by non-sustainable management of farm and grazing lands. Strongly reduced vegetation cover leads to eroded, low quality soils, decreased rainfall infiltration and groundwater recharge, increased runoff loaded with sediments and an overall deterioration of the ecosystem services provided by the area affected. Especially in semi-arid areas, land degradation interacts with climate change, each reinforcing the other. As a result, livelihoods of people living in degraded areas, as well as those living downstream -hydrologically and meteorologically, are negatively affected.

Land restauration, or 're-greening', tries to remedy such adverse effects, sometimes explicitly aiming at climate restauration too. Potentially positive climate effects of re-greening, such as reduced temperature extremes, enhanced total rainfall and/or less variable rainfall, have been relatively little quantified. It is not clear if negative climate effects following degradation are simply reversible upon restauration, or not. Also boundary conditions for successful climate restauration need to be identified. The PhD candidate will address such issues in her/his research.

The Water Systems and Global Change group (www.wur.nl/wsg ) of Wageningen University & Research has built up a considerable track record in studying interactions between hydrology, land cover and land use, and climate (change). We do this in the context of deforestation / agricultural expansion, large scale irrigation, urbanisation in both tropical and temperate climates world wide.

As a PhD candidate, you will work on the following research topics (relative weight to be determined based on your interest and qualifications):

  • Making an inventory of existing re-greening projects around the world and in Africa in particular, with the aim to construct a chrono-sequence.
  • Analysing observed first and second order hydro-climatic effects of re-greening as a function of project scale and - maturity, and of base line physiographic characteristics of the region.
  • Identifying causal processes in the soil-vegetation-atmosphere continuum responsible for theobserved effects or the lack thereof; analyse synergies and trade-offs between the small and large hydrological cycle
  • Identify design rules for land restauration projects that maximize the chance of positive climatic effects
    Your work will consist of literature studies, analysis of satellite observed and in-situ meteorological data, as well as numerical modelling of land-atmosphere interactions. You will be member of a larger team of researchers within and outside Wageningen UR working on this topic, and have strong interaction with various stakeholders (governmental, NGOs, etc.) associated with re-greening projects around the world. Your project results will be disseminated through papers in peer reviewed journals (as a basis of your PhD thesis) and conference proceedings, but using also popular media is encouraged.


The ideal candidate has:

  • A university degree (MSc) in earth or environmental sciences with a strong back ground in earth system dynamics, eco-hydrology and/or boundary layer and mesoscale meteorology,
  • Experience with remote sensing of earth surface and meteorological dynamics,
  • Experience with modelling of soil-vegetation-atmosphere interactions
  • Experience with analysis, modelling and management of big datasets in an HPC environment
  • Excellent writing and oral communication skills in Dutch and English and strong ambition to publish future work,
  • A team player who can work independently and who also communicates well with colleagues, and has the potential to (co-)supervise (under)graduate students in their research
  • Affinity with stakeholder interaction and cooperation with other scientific disciplines.


We offer a temporary contract for 18 months. full-time (38 hours), which will be extended with 30 months if you perform well. Salary will increase from € 2222,- gross per month in the first year up tot € 2840,- in the last year.

Additional information

Dr Ronald W.A. Hutjes (ronald.hutjes@wur.nl), +31 (0)317-48 64 62

Application for this position should be submitted before 27 November 2017

Please do not send your application directly to Dr. Hutjes.


The Water Systems and Global Change Group (WSG) is one of the chair groups in the Environmental Science Group of Wageningen University & Research. WSG aims to create new knowledge to contribute to sustainable water systems in a changing global environment, in order to contribute the provisioning of sufficient, clean and climate-proof water for society and nature. The Water Systems and Global Change group aims to improve the understanding of anthropogenically driven changes in water cycles in relation to interactions between climate-, water-, energy- and agricultural systems. WSG performs integrated assessments of water systems, in which we integrate knowledge on water systems and global change. To this end, we use a variety of models and observations. We combine modelling analyses with participatory approaches. Our water assessments focus on (1) the effect of changing global drivers on water systems, (2) adaptation and (3) mitigation strategies, comprising of novel approaches such as adaptive water management and ecosystem-based adaptation and (4) climate-water services. We thus take an integrated approach across the water, food and energy systems, at multiple spatial and temporal scales.