The Role of Woodlands in the Diversity and Resilience of Pollinator Communities in Agricultural Landscapes


The Role of Woodlands in the Diversity and Resilience of Pollinator Communities in Agricultural Landscapes


Project Description


Dr Richard Davies (School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia) contact me

Dr Martin Taylor (School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia)

Dr Lynn Dicks (Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge)

Project Background


Intensive agriculture is a key driver of declines in pollinating insect populations and pollination services. Ecological intensification to mitigate these effects has focused largely on restoring field-scale semi-natural habitat 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 woodland patches upon pollinator communities (2).

Uncertainty remains over which plant species are the most valuable food resources for pollinator species, and how their relative value varies seasonally (3). While the benefits to bees of grassland-associated wildflowers is well-established, the complementary role of trees and woodland as pollinator resources is less well-studied in agricultural landscapes. Woodlands can provide among the highest levels of nectar production for a major UK habitat, and the use of tree species by pollinating insects may be disproportionate to the abundance of woodland in the landscape (4). Woodland tree species composition also influences other plants, with consequences for pollinators (5). Woodlands and woody corridors in landscapes provide nesting and larval microsites for a range of pollinator species.


This exciting project will combine community and molecular ecology approaches to investigate the role of woodlands in promoting the abundance and diversity of pollinating insects, and temporal stability of floral resource provisioning, in agricultural landscapes. Understanding the influence of landscape management of trees within woodland and woody corridors, on pollinator assemblages and services in farmland, provides the rationale for this project.


The candidate 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 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 a 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 candidate will be liaising with farmers.


  • 1. 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.
  • 2. Mandelik, Y., Winfree, R., Neeson, T. & Kremen, C. 2012. Complementary habitat use by wild bees in agro-natural landscapes. Ecological Applications 22: 1535–1546.
  • 3. Peel, N., Dicks, L. V., Clark, M. D., Heavens, D., Percival-Alwyn, L., Cooper, C., Davies, R. G., Leggett, R. M. & Yu, D. 2019. Semi-quantitative characterisation of mixed pollen samples using MinION sequencing and Reverse Metagenomics (RevMet). Methods in Ecology and Evolution 10: 1690–1701
  • 4. Donkersley, P. 2019. Trees for bees. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 270: 79-83.
  • 5. 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: 244-256.

Key Information

  • This project has been shortlisted for funding by the ARIES NERC DTP and will start on 1st October 2021. The closing date for applications is 23:59 on 12th January 2021.
  • Successful candidates who meet UKRI’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship, which covers fees, stipend (£15,285 p.a. for 2020-21) and research funding. For the first time in 2021/22 international applicants (EU and non-EU) will be eligible for fully-funded UKRI studentships. Please note ARIES funding does not cover visa costs (including immigration health surcharge) or other additional costs associated with relocation to the UK.
  • ARIES students benefit from bespoke graduate training and ARIES provides £2,500 to every student for access to external training, travel and conferences. 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.
  • ARIES is committed to equality, diversity, widening participation and inclusion in all areas of its operation. We encourage enquiries and applications from all sections of the community regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation and transgender status. Academic qualifications are considered alongside significant relevant non-academic experience.
  • All ARIES studentships may be undertaken on a part-time or full-time basis, visa requirements notwithstanding
  • For further information, please contact the supervisor. To apply for this Studentship click on the “Apply now” link below.

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