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ONEPlanet DTP - Monitoring and managing invasive Tor grass (Brachypodium pinnatum) on Lowland calcareous grassland: Whole systems biology approach (OP2159)

Faculty of Science, Agriculture and Engineering

Monday, January 18, 2021 Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Tor grass (Brachypodium pinnatum) is an invasive species which disrupts existing plant communities and biodiversity of lowland calcareous grasslands (LCG)1. LCG cover 38,687 ha of land in England and are protected and valued natural habitats. Although calcareous grasslands are relatively resistant to climate change, the increasing dominance of Tor grass has been identified as a potential impact of drier summers. Application of herbicides for control is also largely ineffective2, and hence Tor grass is a target species for alternative control by Natural England. Advancements in remote sensing allow us to monitor variations and phenotype responses at different spatial, spectral and temporal levels. Informed by field data and basic ecological principles, sensing approaches can substantially advance knowledge not just for monitoring, but also for managing Tor grass (including anthropogenic and natural stressors effect)3.
This project will develop: a) remote sensing techniques for assessment and quantification of Tor grass on LCG, b) understanding of the interactions between environment and management that lead to the proliferation of Tor grass, and c) Integrated Vegetation Management (IVM) practices for control of this invasive species.
Natural England will provide access to chalk grassland sites across England for validation of monitoring techniques and testing hypotheses about links between environment, management and Tor grass communities. Integrated Vegetation Management (IVM) practices for Tor grass control will be tested at targeted sites.
The project will produce tools for better assessment and management of Tor grass while also improving our fundamental understanding of the ecology of this plant.
Training value: The student will develop knowledge and experience in the areas of remote sensing, soil science, plant physiology and ecology. Training in image analysis, GIS, spectral data collection, physiological methods, plant and soil sampling and statistical analysis.
Key References
1Bobbink, R. et al., (1991). Biological Conservation 56, 1-21. 2Redhead, J.W. et al., (2019). Biological Conservation 237, 280-290. 3Stenzel, S. et al., (2017). Ecological Indicators 74, 28-38.

Funding Notes

Each of our studentship awards include 3.5 years of fees (Home/EU), an annual living allowance (£15,285) and a Research Training Support Grant (for travel, consumables, as required). Additional project costs are also provided by our CASE partner Natural England.

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