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ONEPlanet DTP - Understanding and mitigating the impacts of light pollution on nocturnal pollination processes in the Mediterranean biodiversity hotspot (OP2106)

Faculty of Science, Agriculture and Engineering

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

About the Project

Moths are important but overlooked pollinators. There is growing evidence that ALAN affects moth-pollination interactions in northern Europe (e.g. Macgregor et al. 2017, 2019). The impacts of ALAN on ecosystem functioning are likely to be greater in the Mediterranean biodiversity hotspot, where research shows over 70% of caught moths in Portugal carry pollen, and in large amounts (Banza et al. 2019).
Most of southern Iberia has undergone significant land-use changes in recent decades, mostly driven by tourism-led urbanisation resulting in a significant increase in street-lighting. It is unclear how ALAN affects moth pollen-transport networks in these biodiverse areas where seasonal dynamics play an important role (Banza et al. 2019), nor the functional consequences of disruption to insect-pollinated crops.
This project will disentangle the effects of land-use change and ALAN on ecological processes using a network approach. Using DNA-metabarcoding, pollen transport networks will be constructed from moths caught in lit and unlit areas in SW Portugal across a land-use gradient. Light management/technology mitigation (e.g. LED) will be tested using experimental lighting rigs. Long-term moth population trends in the Algarve will be examined using A Rocha Portugal’s (ARP) unique light-trapping dataset.
Fieldwork will be conducted in SW Portugal and will benefit from access to ARP reference libraries and datasets from the region. Additional support will be provided by the Centre for Functional Ecology, University of Coimbra (UoC). Skills gained as part of the training include DNA-metabarcoding (NCL) and trait-based network analysis (NU, NCL & CEH), taxonomy and systematics (ARP, UoC), modelling, including long-term datasets (CEH).

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 A Rocha Portugal.

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