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Nature based solutions to design multifunctional landscapes for people and nature

   School of Biological Sciences

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  Dr Cristina Garcia, Prof J Koricheva, Mr Justin Moat  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), among other national and international commitments, demand transformative changes to design multifunctional landscapes that show resilience to climate change and guarantee the procurement of provisioning, regulating, supporting, and cultural ecosystem services to people and wildlife in a changing world [1]. This is a formidable challenge only experimentally addressed at a local scale (< 1ha) hampering our understanding of the impact that traditional agroforestry activities and new rewilding schemes have on the relationship between functional ecosystems and ecosystem services provision [2].

This project aims to design multifunctional landscapes articulated around traditional extensive agroforestry activities and new (and increasingly popular) rewilding schemes to offer landscape level solutions supporting policy [3]. We will focus on Mediterranean ecosystems because their long history of landscape management by humans and the profusion of historical and recent data available to evaluate the impact of specific interventions at various temporal and spatial scales [3,4]. The project combines: (i) the application of unmanaged aerial vehicles (drones) to quantify regulatory, provisioning, and supporting ecosystem services (ex. CO2 storage, soil water retention, and crop production, among others), (ii) historical GIS data bases spanning a century to evaluate the impact of landscape transitions in determining current levels of biodiversity and provision of ecosystems services; (iii) ancillary bioclimatic data bases; and (iv) interviews and questionaries to map the range of ecosystem services and disservices perceived different land users and to identify the most important relational values that transform multifunctional landscapes into cultural landscapes [5]. We will investigate: (i) How different multifunctional landscapes impact the overall provision of ecosystem services and disservices, and their synergies, antagonistic, and complementary effects; (ii) Is there spillover effects of biodiversity and what is the spatial scale they emerge?; (iii) Does different landscape level solutions impact ecosystem properties, such as resilience and stability, under different scenarios of climate change?; and (iv) Does rewilding and agroforestry contribute to cultural landscapes and how do local communities value multifunctional landscapes? To address these questions, we will apply advanced spatial statistical models, species-habitat networks [6], and social bipartite projection networks [7], among other integrative statistical tools.

The PhD student will be offered the opportunity to apply to one POST grant at the end of the project to enjoy a 12-weeks placement to learn to communicate scientific issues to a wider audience including policy makers and peers across the UK parliament to get to committees and all relevant party parliamentary groups work to develop science-based policy briefs. Overall, this multidisciplinary approach will facilitate policy making to facilitate the co-creation multifunctional landscapes that work for people and nature (biodiversity), improve the design of rewilding schemes, while protecting cultural landscapes trigger the much-needed transformative change [1].

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[[1] Díaz S, Settele J, Brondizio ES. et al., (2019) Pervasive human-driven decline of life on Earth points to the need for transformative change. Science 366 eaax3100 DOI:10.1126/science.aax3100
[2] Manning, P., van der Plas, F., Soliveres, S. et al. Redefining ecosystem multifunctionality. Nat Ecol Evol 2, 427–436 (2018).
[3] García, C., Espelta, J.M. and Hampe, A. (2020), Managing forest regeneration and expansion at a time of unprecedented global change. J Appl Ecol 57: 2310-2315. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.13797
[4] Chan KMA, Balvanera P, Benessiaiah K et al. (2016) Why protect nature? Rethinking values and the environment. PNAS 113, 1462-1465, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1525002113
[5] Frei T, Edou K, Rodríguez Fernández-Blanco C, Winkel G (2022) Governing abandoned land: Storylines on natural forest regrowth in France and Spain. Environmental Science & Policy 135: 58-66. DOI:10.1016/j.envsci.2022.04.022
[6] Marini, L, Bartomeus, I, Rader, R, Lami, F. Species–Habitat networks: A tool to improve landscape management for conservation.
J Appl Ecol. 2019; 56: 923– 928.
[7] Neal, Zachary P. 2014. “The Backbone of Bipartite Projections: Inferring Relationships from Co-Authorship, Co-Sponsorship, Co-Attendance and Other Co-Behaviors.” Social Networks 39 (October): 84–97.

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