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Reconstructing bee communities - the role of national parks in supporting pollination ecosystem services

   School of Agriculture, Policy and Development

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  Dr M Garratt, Dr B A Woodcock, Dr D Senapathi, Dr Lucy Ridding  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Insect pollinator communities, in particular bees, have undergone wide scale declines, driven by a range of factors including habitat loss, agricultural intensification, climate change, disease and invasive species. While there is a large body of evidence describing the impacts of land use intensification on the loss of bee species and the subsequent collapse of functional diversity or trophic interactions, less is known about how these communities can be maintained or re-established in response to large scale land use conservation programs. The Park Nationals de la Vanoise, Bourgogne - Champagne forest and Port Cros represents areas of outstanding natural beauty and a potentially irreplaceable example of natural and semi-natural managed habitats within France. These areas, and areas like it, help support landscape scale species pools of native wildlife, with some 874 species of wild bees found in this region. While these reserves are both floristically geographically distinct, each is characterized by its own set of historical and ongoing land use characteristics, they have the potential to provide resilience by maintaining pollinator diversity and pollination services by acting as a population source facilitating recolonization through sink-source dynamics. Even so, each of these areas is exposed to a wide range of social and environmental pressures resulting from both its location as well as its wider cultural role. There is a pressing need for a strategy to support insect pollinator assemblages to maintain not only the value of these national parks, but also the role of these protected systems in supporting and maintaining the diversity of this key group at a national and international scale. This will necessitate an understanding of the mechanistic consequences of diverse drivers on the maintenance and stability of these communities.

The key objective of this research program is to quantify the extent to which trophic reconstruction of bee communities and associated pollination services can be maintained or promoted though large scale land use conservation programs. We will compare both established (e.g. Vanoise) and newly created (e.g. Champagne forest) national parks to see how habitat protection, recreation, local site quality and spatial structure or resources affects not only the richness of species that are found, but their functional characteristics and trophic links with the plant communities present in these areas. You will look at how the proximity to, and heterogeneity of, different habitat types in these national parks functions to support the diversity and functional structure of bee communities. You will use this information to help understand how different approaches to large scale land use restoration and preservation can help deliver both local and regional resilience in these systems. This may involve considering the role and impact of domesticated honey bees in structuring these wild communities. Research finding will help better understand the role of restored habitat for protecting pollinator diversity and underpin landscape management advice to inform best practice for restoring habitats in these regions.

We are looking for a student with a masters or first class / high 2:1 degree in biology, ecology or related area. Ideally the student will have some or all of the following skills: strong statistical experience, good writing and presentation skills, experience in sampling insects, an ability to deal with lone or remote working, organisational skills and experience in the taxonomy of bees & plants. Although the student will be based in the UK, field work will be undertaken in France so the student must be willing to go on an extended field season in this country. An ability to speak French would be an advantage.  

To apply click at https://www.risisweb.reading.ac.uk/si/sits.urd/run/siw_ipp_lgn.login?process=siw_ipp_app&code1=P_ADM&code2=0001  create your account and use the link sent by email to start the application process.  During the application process please select the PhD in Ecology and Agri-Environmental Research

*Important notes*

1)    Please quote the reference ‘GS23—011’ in the ‘Scholarships applied for’ box which appears within the Funding Section of your on-line application. 

2)    When you are prompted by the online application system to upload a research proposal, please omit this step as the project is already defined. 

Further Enquiries:  

For further details please contact Michael Garratt [Email Address Removed], Ben Woodcock [Email Address Removed]

Funding Notes

This project is funded by POLLINIS: POLLINIS (https://www.pollinis.org/) who fight for the protection of domestic and wild bees, and for an agriculture that respects all pollinators.
Funding Details:
• Starts 01.10.2023
• 4 year award
• Funding covers full tuition fees plus UKRI level stipend
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