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Invasive species: developing evidence-based conservation to control Invasive Non Native Species and to slow their spread to new areas. A NERC CASE project with the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust..

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  • Full or part time
    Dr A M Dunn
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Invasive Non Native Species (INNS) are major drivers of environmental change and threaten ecosystem services, with increasing economic costs (~£1.7bn pa to GB). Freshwaters provide key ecosystem services including fisheries and clean water for drinking, agriculture and recreation. However, freshwaters are experiencing striking biodiversity declines that are much greater than those in terrestrial habitats, with INNS a key driver of this loss. Owing to their high connectivity and ecological sensitivity, aquatic ecosystems are disproportionately affected by INNS. For example, zebra mussels block water pipes; New Zealand pygmy weed reduces native biodiversity and obstructs navigation and flood defenses (GB NNSS).

You will employ approaches from ecology and environmental social science to develop evidence based strategies to manage INNS, and to guard against future Invasions. You will work with supervisors in Ecology and in Environmental Social Science, and with the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust (YWT). You will spend several months out in the field on YWT sites, investigating methods of INNS control, as well as working with staff and volunteers to explore how human attitudes and behaviour can slow the spread of INNS.

YWT is a charity working to protect and conserve Yorkshire’s wildlife. YWT cares for 104 nature reserves many of which have important freshwater habitats and include Special Areas for Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs). INNS are a huge threat to the functioning of these habitats. To meet their mission to protect and conserve wildlife, and to encourage people to rediscover and reconnect with nature, it is important that the YWT develops good strategies for controlling existing INNS and for protecting their reserves from new invasive species. YWT have identified two key areas for research: evaluating control measures for aquatic invaders; and mapping pathways for invasion of new species to deliver improved biosecurity.

MANAGEMENT OF PRIORITY INNS. New Zealand pygmy weed (Crassula helmsii) is listed under Schedule 9 of the UK Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and on the Environment Agency’s “Top ten” INNS list. Its aggressive growth can cover the margins of ponds and lakes. At high densities, it spreads towards the centre of the lake, blocking light and oxygen needed by other plants. This in turn can reduce populations of invertebrates and fish as well as the mammals and birds which predate them. The YWT plans to trial different management options at Potterick Carr reserve, including: mechanical control, herbicides and hot foam. The PhD student will undertake a Before-After Impact-Control study to measure (i) the impact of Crassula helmsii on native diversity, (ii) the effectiveness of different treatment regimes in reducing/eliminating C. helmsii, and (iii) the recovery of native animal and plant populations following treatment.

INVASION PATHWAYS AND BIOSECURITY. Once INNS become established it is often impractical and expensive to manage them. Our most effective response is robust biosecurity to prevent their introduction and spread. INNS (animals, seeds or even fragments of plants that can form a new plant) may be spread through human activities including trade, transport and recreation.The YWT undertakes conservation and management programmes as well as recreational and public outreach activities. The student will work with YWT staff and volunteers to identify key invasion pathways and use these data to develop a suite of biosecurity protocols suitable to the different stakeholders (staff, volunteers, public etc) and activities (e.g. management, wildlife watches, recreation) undertaken by YWT.

1. Evaluate control measures for aquatic INNS by measuring
(i) the impact of Crassula helmsii on native diversity
(ii) the effectiveness of different treatment regimes in reducing/eliminating C. helmsii
(iii) the recovery of native animal and plant populations following treatment.
2. Identify key invasion pathways and stakeholder requirements, awareness and attitudes to INNS
3. Use these data to develop a suite of biosecurity protocols suitable for different activities undertaken by YWT.

THE APPROACH will be interdisciplinary, involving field surveys as well as quantitative and qualitative social research.

The ecological studies will inform our understanding of the impact of INNS, whilst the social studies will inform our understanding of human-wildlife interactions and the drivers of behavioural change. This evidence base will enable the YWT to undertake cost effective INNS control, and to deliver effective INNS biosecurity tailored the range of activities at their sites.

Funding Notes

Jointly supervised by Dr Alison Dunn (School of Biology), Dr Claire Quinn (Sustainibility Research Institute) and Ailsa Henderson (Yorkshire Wildlife Trust)

NERC CASE studentship with the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust The student will join the cohort of students within the Leeds-York NERC Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP).


• Anderson. L.G., Dunn, A.M., Rosewarne, P.J. & Stebbing, P.D. 2015a. Invaders in hot water: a simple decontamination method to prevent the accidental spread of aquatic invasive non-native species. Biological Invasions DOI 101.007/s10530-015-0875-6
• Anderson, L.G., White, P.C.L., Stebbing, P.D., Stentiford, G.D. & Dunn, A.M. 2014. Biosecurity and Vector Behaviour: Evaluating the Potential Threat Posed by Anglers and Canoeists as Pathways for the Spread of Invasive Non-Native Species and Pathogens. Plos One, 9.
• Anderson. L.G., Rocliffe, S., Haddaway, N.R., Dunn, A.M. 2015b. The Role of Tourism and Recreation in the Spread of Non-Native Species: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis PLOS ONE 10. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0140833
• EU 1143/2014 http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?qid=1417443504720&uri=CELEX:32014R1143
• GB NNSS Strategy www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/455526/gb-non-native-species-strategy-pb14324.pdf
• Quinn CH; Ziervogel G; Taylor A; Takama T; Thomalla F (2011) Coping with multiple stresses in rural South Africa, Ecology and Society 16: 10-10.
• Reed MS; Kenter J; Bonn A; Broad K; Burt TP; Fazey IR; Fraser EDG; Hubacek K; Nainggolan D; Quinn CH; Stringer LC; Ravera F (2013) Participatory scenario development for environmental management: A methodological framework illustrated with experience from the UK uplands, Journal of Environmental Management 128: 345-362. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2013.05.016
• Reed MS; Graves A; Dandy N; Posthumus H; Hubacek K; Morris J; Prell C; Quinn CH; Stringer LC (2009) Who's in and why? A typology of stakeholder analysis methods for natural resource management, Journal of Environmental Management 90: 1933-1949. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2009.01.001

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FTE Category A staff submitted: 60.90

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