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UCL Home  /  Geography  /  People  /  Research Students  /  Charlotte Wheeler

Charlotte Wheeler



Recent Environmental Change and Biodiversity (RECB)

Department of Geography
University College London
Pearson Building
Gower Street



Primary supervisor: Dr Simon L. Lewis

Secondary supervisor: Dr Mat Disney



PhD Title: Designing Tropical Forests of the Future to Mitigate Climate Change and Enhance Biodiversity

Over recent years there has been an increasing recognition of the opportunities to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, currently estimated to be 1.2 Pg C yr-1, and to conserve biodiversity, via the restoration of degraded tropical forest. The tropics are particularly suitable for restoration as they have higher above ground biomass per unit area, higher net primary productivity and offer greater temperature benefits compared to temperate and boreal forests, and likely have high species conservation benefits because tropical forests house more than half of Earth’s species.

Large areas of degraded and deforested lands that have been abandoned and left to naturally regenerate exist across the tropics. However, natural regeneration can often be arrested due to repeated fire, poor soil properties and invasive species limiting regeneration. This creates a need to actively restore forests to overcome these problems and help tropical forests sequester carbon and regain lost biodiversity. Furthermore restoration over large areas could increase connectivity of fragmented tropical forest allowing for the dispersal of species across the landscape and making tropical forest more resilient to climate change, if properly planned. However, there is little quantification of how rapidly active restoration could assist carbon sequestration and biodiversity recovery, or realistically how much carbon could be stored if restoration happens over much of the world’s heavily degraded land in the tropics.

In my PhD research I aim to firstly, quantify the rate of AGB and biodiversity change following different types of forest degradation, and determine how restoration could modify recovery. And secondly, I will estimate the area of land available for restoration in the tropics and the total carbon sequestration possible within this land.



Wheeler, C.E., Omeja, P.A., Chapman, C.A., Glipin, M., Tumwesigye, C. & Lewis, S.L. (2016) Carbon sequestration and biodiversity following 18 years of tropical forest restoration. Forest Ecology & Management, 373, 44-55. doi:10.1016/j.foreco.2016.04.025

Gilroy, J. J., Woodcock, P., Edwards, F. A., Wheeler, C., Baptiste, B. L., Uribe, C. A. M., Haugaasen, T. & Edwards, D. P. (2014) Cheap carbon and biodiversity co-benefits from forest regeneration in a hotspot of endemism. Nature Climate Change, 4, 503-507. doi:10.1038/nclimate2200

Gilroy, J. J., Woodcock, P., Edwards, F. A., Wheeler, C., Medina Uribe, C. A., Haugaasen, T. & Edwards, D. P. (2014) Optimizing carbon storage and biodiversity protection in tropical agricultural landscapes. Global Change Biology, 20, 2162-2172. doi: 10.1111/gcb.12482

Edwards, D. P., Backhouse, A. R., Wheeler, C., Khen, C. V. & Hamer, K. C. (2012) Impacts of logging and rehabilitation on invertebrate communities in tropical rainforests of northern Borneo. Journal of Insect Conservation, 16, 591-599. doi:10.​1007/​s10841-011-9444-1




2012 - 2016

Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) CASE studentship (Collaborative award in Science & Engineering)

CASE partner: Permian Global Ltd.  (


UCL Graduate school: Research projects fund