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QUADRAT DTP: Responses of fungal populations to habitat loss and creation: extinction debts and colonisation credits

Project Description

As habitat is lost due to land use change, species are lost from the landscape both locally and regionally. This loss of species does not all happen immediately and indeed, in some cases there can many years before some species eventually go extinct following land-use change. Thus, after an episode of habitat loss there is an extinction debt that needs to be paid and understanding the extent of this debt and the time period over which it will be paid is a major current question in conservation biology. The reverse is true following the restoration or creation of habitat. Not all species will immediately return, even after the habitat has become suitable. This results in what is termed a colonisation credit. By gaining a better understanding of extinction debts and colonisation credits we can inform conservation actions and gain insights into how we effectively monitor success of those actions. Fungi are a key component of forest ecosystems, providing key ecosystem functions and providing important habitat and food resources form many other species. However, they have been extremely understudied in terms of their spatial population ecology and, in particular, the lags that exist between habitat change and responses in terms of extinctions and colonisations. The aim of this project is to fill this key knowledge gap by quantifying the extinction debts and colonisation credits for fungi inhabiting both a temperate and a tropical forest ecosystem.

As a temperate system, the project will focus on the WREN network of forest patches that are distributed across the UK and provide an excellent range of patch sizes, patch ages, and connectivity to other patches. Existing fungal data will be tactically augmented with some additional data collection. Subsequently spatial statistical models will be deployed to estimate the extent of colonisation credits, as a function of key variables that will include patch size and patch connectedness. As a tropical system, the student will be embedded within a large project that is focussed on understanding patterns of biodiversity in Indonesia. Here there has been substantial recent forest loss, there is high macrofungal biodiversity and some of it is yet to be fully described. The student will work across a set of forest patches that will again differ in forest area, connectedness and time since fragmentation, collecting data that can be used to empirically estimate extinction debts.

The empirical component of the project will be complemented by a modelling component. One excellent way to estimate extinction debts and colonisation credits is through dynamic spatial population modelling. At Aberdeen, a software tool called RangeShifter has been developed that facilitates these analyses. In this project, the student will have the opportunity to gain modelling skills using this software and will apply it to project the likely patterns of fungal diversity across both the UK and Indonesian forest networks under alternative future management scenarios.


Candidates should have (or expect to achieve) a minimum of a 2.1 Honours degree in a relevant subject. Applicants with a minimum of a 2.2 Honours degree may be considered providing they have a Distinction at Master’s level.


• Apply for Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Biological Sciences
• State name of the lead supervisor as ‘Name of Proposed Supervisor’ on application
• State ‘QUADRAT DTP’ as Intended Source of Funding
• Select the ‘Visit Website’ to apply now

Funding Notes

This project is funded by the NERC QUADRAT-DTP and is available to UK/EU nationals who meet the UKRI eligibility criteria. Please visit View Website for more information.

The studentship provides funding for tuition fees, stipend and a research training and support grant subject to eligibility.


How good is research at Aberdeen University in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 89.42

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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