Project properties

Title Is freezing tolerance the main determinant of species' altitudinal limits?
Group Forest Ecology and Forest Management Group
Project type thesis
Credits 36
Supervisor(s) Prof. Dr. Ir. Lourens Poorter or Dr. Ir. Frank Sterck
Examiner(s) Prof. Dr. Ir. G.M.J. (Frits) Mohren
Contact info Supervisors or PhD Candidate: Surya Kumar Maharjan (
Begin date 2017/06/01
End date
Description This thesis will be carried out within the framework of a PhD research entitled: Climatic effects on plant species distribution along an altitudinal gradient in Nepal.
It is becoming more and more evident that climate change is forcing species to shift poleward and upward. Such shifts will particularly be problematic in mountainous landscapes, where steep mountain ranges block poleward movements and presence of disproportionately smaller land areas at higher altitudes impede upward movements. In an effort to reckon impacts of climate change on mountain biodiversity, this PhD research aims to analyze distribution patterns of plant species along an altitudinal gradient in Nepal, one of the steepest altitudinal gradients in the world, and model consequences of climate change for their future performances and distributions.
In mountains, where night temperature falls far below freezing point and remains there for several hours, it is likely that freezing tolerant species are favored over others. Therefore, it is likely that leaf tissue tolerance to freezing & xylem tolerance to freezing-induced cavitation define the upper limit of plant species along an altitudinal gradient. In this thesis, the prospective MSc student will work with ca. 40 plant species from different altitudinal belts of Nepal. The student will carry out field work in Nepal and work with partner organization in Nepal to experimentally quantify tolerance of leaf tissue to freezing & that of xylem to freezing-induced cavitation. The student will use species distribution maps prepared as a part of this PhD research and topographic and climatic data to evaluate linkages between freezing tolerance and altitudinal limits of plant species.

Climate change effects /Biodiversity and functional diversity/ Population and forest dynamics/ Ecophysiology/Asia/ Tropical zone
Used skills Field work, experimental quantification of tolerance, statistical analysis, scientific writing
Requirements FEM-30306 Forest Ecology and Forest Management & REG-31806 Ecological Methods I