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Department of Geography, University of Cambridge


Polar Landscape & Remote Sensing

Polar Landscape & Remote Sensing

Research on Polar Landscapes and Remote Sensing involves monitoring and understanding the processes that modify the environment of the polar and sub-polar regions, as well as the development of novel methods for investigating them. We have two main research foci: high-latitude vegetation, and snow and ice cover. Work in the area of snow and ice is mainly described under Glaciology and Climate Change.

Over half of the Earth's land surface north of 65 degrees is vegetated, with boreal forest (taiga) being succeeded to the north by tundra vegetation. (Vegetation comprises a globally insignificant proportion of the land area in the Antarctic regions.) This high-latitude vegetation plays a profoundly important part in the global climate system, and the tundra-taiga ecotone, probably the Earth's largest vegetation transition, exhibits a sensitive but complex response to climate. On the other hand, local and regional influences on the distribution and health of vegetation can dominate over global effects. An understanding of these phenomena is essential to any attempt to interpret the response of Arctic vegetation to postulated changes in the global climate.

Our aim is to develop an understanding of the phenomena of Arctic vegetation change and the processes that control them, from global to local scales. Major factors in the latter case include industrial and, perhaps surprisingly, pastoral activity. This requires an unusually high degree of interdisciplinarity, incorporating as appropriate disciplines ranging from politics to chemistry, ecology to anthropology. A substantial component of our work involves the development of new and robust techniques for measuring vegetation change using data from satellite remote sensing.


Research students

Research projects

Further details of some of the specific research projects we are involved in are also available.