Brigadier LIBANDA, PhD Student in Atmospheric and Environmental Science (Zambia)

Brigadier Libanda will target the lack of data of growth rates for the Miombo woodlands, which are widespread in his home country of Zambia. His goal is to contribute to the understanding of the tree growth rate across the woodlands, which are now facing the consequences of climate changes.


Research focus: ecosystems and climate dynamics

Resource depletion, along with disturbances and uncertainties inherent in climate change, pose a threat to the sustainability of the Miombo woodlands. This is especially concerning as these areas provide ecosystem services which are essential to the welfare of the rural majority, access to food, shelter, charcoal and habitation for rare species of animals. Chitemene, the so-called farming system in the Miombo area, is wasteful and poses a serious threat to sustainability. In Chitemene land use, trees are felled on a large scale, piled and burnt with the aim of generating ash that fertilises the crops. As it is, only a small part of the burnt ash is actually used for growing crops. A fundamental concern of ecologists and land managers is the understanding of the current state of the Miombo woodlands and a forecast on its change.

Based on this knowledge, Brigadier targets this understanding of growth rates which can in turn contribute to a sustainable management. Furthermore, scientists can use predicted growth rates to analyse how ecosystem services provisioning will change in the future and provide a better understanding into the sustainable role of the woodlands in the carbon cycle. Within the framework of his research, Brigadier carried out an intensive literature review to establish the current comprehension of tree growth. By synthesising all available datasets across the region, he aims to develop long-term data which is not yet widely available across the woodlands. Consequently, he is thus revealing growth rates as well as unravelling other ecological structures and functions across the Miombo area. One research issue his work addresses is the effect of climate change on tree growth. Brigadier also aims to analyse the role of models that are trying to predict climate change. His goal is to synthesise available data and employ remote sensing techniques to capture data for sparse regions across the Miombo area.

The jury acknowledged that Brigadier’s work is related to forest protection and conservation in Germany. They were also impressed by his commitment to sustainable forest use, biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation. They believe that his research stay will enable him to provide practical solutions in these fields.