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Ecological mechanisms that underlie ecosystem resilience to land use changes: demographic compensation in plant-pollinator networks

Project Description

Background Recent studies document that anthropic activity causes pollinator decline that, in turn, impacts fecundity patterns of plants they feed upon imperiling their persistence. Yet, the overall outcome of land use changes show mixed trends (positive, negative, or neutral) partly because both pollinators and plants might undergo demographic compensation in response to environmental changes. Demographic compensation is the phenomenon whereby declines in some vital rates (e.g. seed size) are offset by increases in others (e.g. seed number) providing resilience against external disturbances. We lack empirical data to test whether demographic compensation mediates the persistence of populations of interacting species, such as pollinators and insect-pollinated plants, to long-term land use changes.

Objectives We aim to combine fieldwork across the UK to collect data on plant and pollinator population growth, composition, and fecundity with recorded data on long-term land use changes (HILDA database) to first identify the impact of land-use changes (type and time elapsed) on the plant and pollinator community composition. Secondly, we will use empirical data and integrated projection matrices (IPM) to quantify the effect of pollinator decline/shift in shaping plant demographic trends of plants they feed upon. Finally, we will evaluate the accuracy of different restoration strategies by applying a novel platform (referred as Condatis) to assist in landscape restoration to maximize the provision of pollination services and the chances of plants and pollinators to persist.

Novelty This project links long-term land use changes with the provision of ecosystem services (pollination services) and by doing so it proposes for the first time an ecological mechanism (demographic compensation) to explain the likelihood of plant and pollinator populations to collapse or persist.

Timeliness This project addresses a timing question given the pressing need to understand the mechanisms that increase the chances of native populations to persist across the landscape.

Funding Notes

Competitive funding of tuition fee, research costs and stipend (£14,777 tax-free, 2018-19) from the NERC Doctoral Training Partnership ACCE, View Website. ACCE – a collaboration between the Universities of Sheffield, Liverpool, and York – is the only dedicated ecology/evolution/conservation Doctoral Training Partnership in the UK.

Applications (CV, letter of application, 2 referees) by email to , deadline: January 9 2019. Interviews in or after the week commencing: 11th February 2019. Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed for only one project from the ACCE partnership.

This project is also available to self-funded students. A fees bursary may be available.


James M. Bullock, Dries Bonte, Gesine Pufal, Carolina da Silva Carvalho*, Daniel S. Chapman, Cristina García, Daniel García, Erik Matthysen, Maria Mar Delgado (2018) Human-mediated dispersal and the rewiring of spatial networks. Trends in Ecology and Evolution, DOI: 10.1016/j.tree.2018.09.008.

Antonio Jesús Múñoz-Pajares*, Cristina García, Mohamed Abdelaziz, Jordi Boch, Francisco Perfectti, Jose M. Gómez (2017) Drivers of genetic differentiation in a generalist insect-pollinated herb across spatial scales. Molecular Ecology 26 1576-1585 DOI: 10.1111/mec.13971.

Santini, L*., Cornulier, T., Bullock, J.M., Palmer, S.C.F., White, S.M., Hodgson, J.A., Bocedi, G. & Travis, J.M.J. (2016) A trait-based approach for predicting species responses to environmental change from sparse data: how well might terrestrial mammals track climate change? Global Change Biology, 22, 2415-2424. (relevant because of predicting multi-spp responses).

Scriven, S.A.*, Hodgson, J.A., McClean, C.J. & Hill, J.K. (2015) Protected areas in Borneo may fail to conserve tropical forest biodiversity under climate change. Biological Conservation, 184, 414-423. (relevant because metapopulation modelling over fragmented landscapes).

* postgraduate co-author

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