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

CASE award with The Woodland Trust (DAVIES_UBIO20ARIES)

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

CASE award with The Woodland Trust (DAVIES_UBIO20ARIES)

Project Description

Supervisors

Dr Richard Davies, School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia

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

Dr Lynn Dicks, School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia

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 (role of the student) and training

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.

References

  • 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. Morandin, L.A. & Kremen, C. 2013 Hedgerow restoration promotes pollinator populations and exports native bees to adjacent fields. Ecological Applications 23: 829–839.
  • 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 Doctoral Training Partnership, and will involve attendance at mandatory training events throughout the course of the PhD.
  • 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 (see https://www.aries-dtp.ac.uk/supervisors/additional-funding/).
  • This studentship will start on 1st October 2020, and the closing date for applications is 12:00 on 7th January 2020.
  • Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on 18/19 February 2020.
  • For further information, please contact the supervisor.
  • Please note that the joint NERC-ESRC ARIES-SeNSS studentship projects have different deadlines and funding arrangements. For full details please visit https://senss-dtp.ac.uk/aries-senss-joint-studentship, or contact SeNSS.dtp@uea.ac.uk.

Studentship Open for Applications

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