Thesis subject

MSc thesis topic: Conserving Sherbro River Estuary, Sierra Leone (Establishing baseline environmental conditions)

To help conserve nature, and combat climate change, we need to monitor land use change, such as forest and wetlands degradation. Monitoring and tracking change over time helps identify causes (natural vs human-induced) of land transitions and can inform policy interventions.

The Sherbro River Estuary is a 139,549 hectares area in Sierra Leone with high levels of biodiversity and mangrove forests. The area is under threat from deforestation and a key priority for conservation. A recently launched project aims to conserve and protect, and potentially rehabilitate mangrove forests in this area while creating new sources of income for coastal communities. Once operational, the project hopes to receive sustainably funding through certified carbon credits, and to share revenues among local communities, local and national governments, and investors.

There is a need to create a knowledge base to help policy making for the estuary. In particular, the project seeks partners to help (1) undertake an environmental assessment to establish baseline conditions including specifically the rate of deforestation of mangrove forests, biodiversity an assessment of carbon stock and threat-levels thereto, and establish the annual carbon sequestration rate; (2) establish a socio-economic basis for developing a nature-based and resilient livelihood project including assessing land use and livelihood changes in the region and gaps, needs, and challenges faced by the coastal communities.

This project is a collaborative effort with researchers from the social sciences and forest ecology.


  • Identifying data sources and synthesis of data that can help determine potential reference levels and estimates of baseline deforestation and the potential for conservation and restoration activities,

    • collect and analyze existing data on mangrove forests using geospatial technologies, including satellite image data and topographical surveys;
    • rapid field survey in the SRE to determine the ecological characteristics (including identification of species);
  • Estimate annual rate of deforestation and establish drivers of deforestation (present and potential);
  • Identify climate change vulnerabilities, including threats to coastal resilience (present and potential);
  • Assess the role of the mangrove forests in reducing coastal flood risk, soil erosion, and other similar climate-based threats; and
  • Recommend a measurement and verification framework that can substantially lower the cost and improve the efficiency of measuring and monitoring mangrove cover over the project life.

Theme(s): Sensing & measuring; Integrated Land Monitoring