Sea-level rise is one of the greatest threats to the global community. The UK Climate Change Committee stated that “climate change will exacerbate the already significant exposure of the English coast to flooding and erosion. The current approach to coastal management in England is unsustainable in the face of climate change.” Forecasting large-scale landscape responses is therefore essential to improved management and planning. However calibration of models is currently restricted to short-duration observational data. Newly-acquired palaeo archives from the southern North Sea provide an exciting opportunity to understand long-term responses of terrestrial and coastal areas to periods of sea-level rise. This project will utilise a large-scale palaeo dataset to develop landscape models of coastal change. Palaeo-coastline reconstructions can benefit stakeholders, decision makers and the public, providing storylines as to how landscapes may respond to future climate change. During the last ice age, the southern North Sea comprised a terrestrial environment beyond the limit of the ice sheets, which extended across much of Europe. As the ice sheets melted, sea level rose, submerging this landscape to become the modern North Sea. Collecting core material from these environments is challenging and prohibitively expensive; but site investigations for new windfarms in the southern North Sea are providing a wealth of data, which means this research is extremely timely. Using this new offshore core material, which the supervisory team have unique access too, this studentship will use palaeo-environmental reconstruction techniques (e.g. microfossil analysis such as pollen and diatoms, and sediment dating), alongside landscape modelling, to build an integrated model of coastal palaeolandscape in the southern North Sea, to assess the ecological and landscape responses to rising sea level.
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