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The role of woodlands in the diversity and resilience of pollinator communities in agricultural landscapes (DAVIESUBIO20ARIES)


Project Description

SCIENTIFIC BACKGROUND

Intensive agriculture is a key driver of declines in pollinating insect diversity, abundance and pollination services. Ecological intensification to mitigate effects of agriculture has focused largely on restoring semi-natural habitats including florally enhanced field margins (1). However, provision of pollination services on farmland is also dependent on wider landscape context, with relatively little attention being paid to the influence of managed woodland patches upon pollinator diversity, abundance and pollination services (2).

Wild bees and hoverflies are dominant pollinator groups temperate terrestrial ecosystems (3). While the preference of bees for wildflower species is well-established, their reliance on trees for foraging resources is less well-studied. Woodlands are known to provide among the highest levels of nectar production for a major UK habitat. Recent evidence suggests that use by pollinating insects of tree species is disproportionate to the abundance of woodland and trees in the landscape (4). Management of woodland tree species composition also influence other plants, with consequences for pollinators (5). Woodlands and woody corridors (hedgerows) in landscapes provide nesting and larval microsites for some bumblebee and hoverfly species, respectively.

AIM

This exciting project will combine community and molecular ecology approaches to investigate the role of woodlands in influencing the abundance and diversity of pollinating insects, and the temporal stability of floral resource provision, in agricultural landscapes. Understanding the influence of landscape management of woodland and woody corridors on pollinator assemblages and services in farmland, is the main rationale underpinning the project.

RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

The student will carry out and receive training in: design and implementation of field-sampling of pollinating insects; morphological taxonomic methods for pollinator insects; use of DNA metabarcoding for identifying pollinator species from bulk insect samples; computational and statistical methods in community and landscape ecology using R and ArcGIS software; preparation of outputs for publication.

PERSON SPECIFICATION

We seek an enthusiastic and versatile scientist with a strong interest in community and landscape ecology and/or field entomology and botany. Experience of molecular ecology methods is highly desirable, although training will be given. Excellent people skills are needed for this position as the student will be liaising with farmers.

More information on the supervisor for this project: http://www.uea.ac.uk/biological-sciences/People/academic/richard+davies
Type of programme: PhD
Start date: October 2020
Mode of study: Full-time or part-time
Studentship length: 3.5 years
Partner: The Woodland Trust
Eligibility requirements: Not specified

Funding Notes

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the ARIES NERC Doctoral Training Partnership, and will involve attendance at mandatory training events throughout the PhD.

Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on 18/19 February 2020.

Successful candidates who meet UKRI’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship. UK and EU nationals who have been resident in the UK for 3 years are eligible for a full award.

Excellent applicants from quantitative disciplines with limited experience in environmental sciences may be considered for an additional 3-month stipend to take advanced-level courses in the subject area.

For further information, please visit View Website

References

Kovács-Hostyánszki, A, Espindola, A, Vanbergen, A., Settele, J., Kremen, C. & Dicks, L. V. 2017. Ecological intensification to mitigate impacts of conventional intensive land use on pollinators and pollination. Ecology Letters 20: 673–689.

Mandelik, Y., Winfree, R., Neeson, T. & Kremen, C. 2012. Complementary habitat use by wild bees in agro-natural landscapes. Ecological Applications 22: 1535–1546.

Morandin, L.A. & Kremen, C. 2013 Hedgerow restoration promotes pollinator populations and exports native bees to adjacent fields. Ecological Applications 23: 829–839.

Donkersley, P. 2019. Trees for bees. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 270: 79-83.

Barsoum, N., Coote, L., Eycott, A. E., Fuller, L., Kiewitt, A. & Davies, R. G. 2016. Diversity, functional structure and functional redundancy of woodland plant communities: how do mixed tree species plantations compare with monocultures? Forest Ecology and Management 382:

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