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Cross-boundary effects of forest diversity on aquatic ecosystems

   School of Biological Sciences

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  Prof J Koricheva, Dr Pavel Kratina  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Tree species, functional and genetic diversity is known to mediate ecosystem processes and functioning of the forest ecosystems. However, forests are connected to other ecosystems through the flow of species, energy and elements. Therefore, changes in biodiversity in forest ecosystems could have cross-boundary effects on coupled ecosystems. Yet, most tests of biodiversity–ecosystem functioning relationships have so far focused on effects within the same ecosystems, largely ignoring consequences across ecosystem boundaries. This research gap has potentially serious repercussions for the conservation, restoration, and management of biodiversity and ecosystems from local to landscape scales.

This project will explore to what extent forest diversity affects freshwater ecosystems using the long-term Satakunta forest diversity experiment in Finland ( and potentially other forest diversity experiments within TreeDivNet platform ( in the UK and abroad. The Satakunta experiment represent the oldest forest diversity experiment within TreeDivNet and the only one within boreal forest biome. Both tree species and within-species genetic diversity have been manipulated by planting replicated monocultures and species and genotype mixtures.

Replicated microcosm experiments provide suitable model systems to study across-ecosystem impacts and freshwater microcosms, such as natural or artificial water filled tree holes which are frequently inhabited by insects, crustaceans, nematodes, aquatic mites, protists, bacteria and fungi, have been successfully used to study the effects of forest management on aquatic communities. In this project, aquatic microcosms containing community-specific leaf litter will be exposed in forest stands composed of different number of tree species and genotypes and effects of tree species richness, composition, functional diversity and genetic diversity on a variety of water and aquatic diversity parameters will be assessed.

The following research questions could be addressed within this project:

-         Are taxonomic, functional and phylogenetic diversity in the aquatic system affected by the same tree diversity drivers (e.g. tree species richness, functional diversity, genetic diversity)?

-         Which of the above tree diversity drivers have the strongest effects on structure, diversity and functioning of aquatic communities?

-         What are the underlying mechanisms of the observed effects (e.g. changes in microclimate, differences in litter and water quality)?  

-         How do tree diversity drivers affect different aquatic diversity levels at different spatial scales (alpha, beta, gamma diversity)?

The project will be co-supervised by Prof Julia Koricheva (RHUL) who has expertise in studying effects of forest diversity on ecosystem functioning and Dr Pavel Kratina (QMUL) who is an expert in aquatic food web ecology. The project would be suitable for the applicants with background in ecology, zoology or biology and interests in linkage between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning and forest and/or aquatic ecology. It offers the prospective PhD student an opportunity to develop skills in experimental design, field work, statistical analysis, and both forest and aquatic ecology. There is also an opportunity for the candidate to lead data analysis and synthesis across several forest diversity experiments in collaboration with other researchers from the international TreeDivNet platform and the global MICROcosm project.   

Entry requirements: BSc degree in ecology, zoology or biology. 

To apply follow link and instructions at


Scherer-Lorenzen M., et al. (2022). Pathways for cross-boundary effects of biodiversity on ecosystem functioning. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 37(5): 454-467.
Petermann J.S., et al. (2020). Direct and indirect effects of forest management on tree-hole inhabiting aquatic organisms and their functional traits. Science of the Total Environment 704: 135418.

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