Environmental Risk

Current Projects

Living Deltas

River deltas comprise just one per cent of global landscapes yet support over half a billion people. They are vital social-ecological systems and global food-baskets, but the terrain and the livelihoods of those who rely on them are under threat from human exploitation, environmental degradation and climate change. Experts from the School of Geography will be working with a new international research hub looking at tropical river deltas, thanks to funding from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

Focusing on three deltas in Asia, the Living Delta hub will operate on a model of equitable partnership with the delta-dwellers and the research community working together to develop new knowledge and policies. The aim is to safeguard delta futures through more resilient communities and sustainable development.This is one of 12 hubs that are being funded through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) – which is a key component in delivering the UK AID strategy and puts UK-led research at the heart of efforts to tackle the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Hub will allow the further development of research conducted as part of an ongoing Newton Fund research partnership (2017-2020) investigating human impacts and pollution in the Red River Delta in northern Vietnam.

Hub members involved: Suzanne McGowan, Virginia Panizzo, Lucy Roberts, Jorge Salgado, Sarah Taylor


Image credit: Virginia Panizzo and Melanie Leng


Sustainable water management and water quality issues in the Red River Delta in Vietnam

This area supports 20 million inhabitants and includes a major rice-growing region and the city of Hanoi. There are multiple environmental issues in this region which have arisen from a combination of damming for hydropower production, groundwater extraction, and contamination with toxins and nutrients from intensive agriculture, industrialisation and urban growth.

Hub members involved: Suzanne McGowan and Virginia Panizzo


Mapping peat conditions

Tropical forest fires affect over 20 million people in South East Asia, leading to significant deteriorations in public health and premature mortalities as well as contributing to global CO2 emissions and other negative environmental impacts. Many fires occur over drained peatland areas.

Research in the school is using satellite observations and measurements to map peat condition. By monitoring water levels and improving hydrology in the peatland areas, the risk of fire can be dramatically reduced. By using freely available observations from satellites through the EU Copernicus programme and use of emerging industrial hosted processing capabilities, peatland monitoring is a cost effective way to reduce forest fires.

Hub members involved: Doreen Boyd


Examining the links between the North Atlantic Oscillation and wildfires across Europe

The North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) is the dominant mode of atmospheric circulation variability over the North Atlantic/European sector. This climate mode leads climatic fluctuations in Europe, the Mediterranean, parts of the Middle East and eastern North America over multiple time scales from intra-seasonal to multi-decadal. The NAO underwent an important upward trend from the late 20th century, which caused large regional changes in air temperature, precipitation, winds, with impacts on either marine and terrestrial ecosystems.

Studies based on climate models have suggested that changes in the NAO for the current century will result in drier and warmer conditions in the Mediterranean region, which would in turn enhance wildfire activity. The Mediterranean area is one of the most fire-prone regions of the world. Wildfires annually inflict damages to human life and property, with financial costs reaching billions of euros, as well as pose severe environmental risks by increasing air pollution as well as releasing significant amount of carbon otherwise stored in vegetation biomass into the atmosphere.

Hub members involved: Geertje van der Heijden, Michela Mariani, Giles Foody, Charles Watkins, Simon Gosling and Doreen Boyd



Environmental Risk

School of Geography
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