Prof Martin Attrill, School of Biological and Marine Sciences, University of Plymouth
Prof Steve Widdicombe, Plymouth Marine Laboratory
Dr Lauren Biermann, Plymouth Marine Laboratory
Lush, intertidal seagrass meadows appear to be spreading in SW England estuaries, replacing harmful, smothering green macroalgae. How can we evidence the changes (locally/globally) and how important are these new estuarine habitats?
With a multidisciplinary team from PML, University of Plymouth, JNCC and Westcountry Rivers Trust you will do research that covers everything from satellites to drones, benthic invertebrates to birds, and ecosystem services to socio-economic impact to identify the value of intertidal seagrass restoration.
What are the causes and ecological implications of the change?
Climate change may be a factor, but also changes in agricultural land management to reduce nutrient loads in upstream waters that drain into estuaries.
Subtidal seagrass has high conservation importance. We know it has positive impacts on biodiversity and provides ecosystem services including blue carbon storage and a nursery ground for fish and shellfish.
In contrast, the ecosystem services from intertidal seagrass are unknown!
This exciting and novel PhD project will
- Provide evidence for the change in intertidal vegetation
- Identify drivers for increases in intertidal seagrass meadows in SW England
- Determine which factors can be managed to support seagrass restoration efforts elsewhere
- Provide understanding of the ecological consequences of this change
- Consider what ecosystem services are supported by intertidal seagrass and what are the implications of seagrass recovery for natural capital
This new knowledge will support and justify wider restoration and recovery of seagrasses.
You will receive training to take an interdisciplinary approach e.g.
- Earth observation image delivery and analysis via satellites and aerial drones to identify extent and rate of development of seagrass
- Case studies to identify causes of development of meadows
- Benthic surveys and experiments
- Quantification of ecosystem services, including climate regulation
- Natural capital
- Potentially, use of drones to monitor intertidal seagrass through citizen science
To do this project you will need: good understanding of marine and estuarine ecology and of basic biogeochemistry; basic skills to process data in R or Python; sufficient numeracy to be able to learn to analyse earth observation, ecological and ecosystem service data. Understanding of ecosystems services, natural capital and the use of remote observations will be advantageous.