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Assessing the role of woody vegetation for ecosystem services and biodiversity in Irish farmland

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  • Full or part time
    Dr P Caplat
    Prof M Emmerson
  • 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

Woody vegetation on farms and pastures has been shown to provide a number of ecosystem services, from supporting biodiversity to offering shelter for pollinators and biocontrol agents. However, no systematic study of the trade-offs between these different services exists, and we are lacking knowledge on the scale at which these effects occur. In addition, climate change is likely to affect the distribution of trees, shrubs, crops, and organisms that are associated with them.

This project will investigate the roles of woody vegetation for biodiversity and ecosystem service provision in agricultural landscapes, with a focus on fruit orchards and pastures, but other systems might be explored. Biodiversity will be quantified using bird and insect counts, or other taxa that might be measured. Two ecosystem services will be quantified: pollination, through measuring the abundance of pollination insects and fruit yield, and biocontrol through measuring the abundance of known biocontrol agents. Other ecosystem services might be considered.

In both cases, effects will be measured at different scales (e.g., close to woody vegetation and at the landscape level). Climate effects will be evaluated by applying species distribution models to the plant, bird and insect species identified as relevant, and projecting their distributions along climate scenarios.

This project will benefit from synergies from a project on woody vegetation in Sweden lead by Dr Caplat, and other projects on pastures, orchards and hedgerows conducted at Queen’s University.

Research aims

1) State of biodiversity and ecosystem services associated with woody vegetation in farmland
a. Map woody vegetation in NI and RoI
b. Quantify landscape effects of woody vegetation on biodiversity
c. Quantify landscape effects of woody vegetation on pollination and biocontrol

2) Future of biodiversity and ecosystem services associated with woody vegetation in farmland
a. Project distribution of relevant species
b. Identify mismatches between future distributions threatening the provision of ecosystem services

Funding Notes

Criteria
Essential: good analytical capacity, excellent communication skills, and readiness to conduct sampling in the field.
Important: knowledge of GIS, statistics, forest and landscape ecology, familiarity with a programming software (e.g. R, Matlab), bird and/or arthropod identification skills.
Documented experience of research with direct relevance to the PhD subject (e.g. Master projects and research papers) is particularly valuable.

How good is research at Queen’s University Belfast in Agriculture, Veterinary and Food Science?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 33.40

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

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