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

CASE project with the Woodland Trust (DAVIES_UBIO19ARIES)

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

CASE project with the Woodland Trust (DAVIES_UBIO19ARIES)

Project Description

Supervisors

Dr Richard Davies (UEA Biological Sciences)

Dr Lynn Dicks (UEA)

Scientific background

Intensive agriculture is one of the main drivers 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 within farmland including florally enhanced field margins. The provision of pollination services on farmland is also dependent on the wider landscape context, yet relatively little attention has been paid to the influence of semi-natural and managed woodland areas upon on-farm pollinator diversity, abundance and pollination services.

Wild bees and hoverflies are dominant pollinator groups in most temperate terrestrial ecosystems. Management of woodland tree composition influences the functional structure of plant assemblages with consequences for insects including pollinators. Woodlands are known to provide among the highest levels of nectar production for a major UK habitat type, as well as nesting sites and larval microsites for some bumblebee and hoverfly species, respectively.

This exciting project will combine cutting-edge community, landscape and molecular ecology approaches to investigate the role of woodlands in influencing the abundance and diversity of pollinating insects, as well as the seasonal stability of floral resource provision, in agricultural landscapes. Understanding the influence of woodland management on pollinator assemblages and services on farmland, will be a theme underpinning the project.

Research methodology and training

The student will carry out and receive training in: design and implementation of field-sampling of pollinating insects across East Anglia; morphological taxonomic methods for bees and hoverflies; use of DNA metabarcoding methods for identifying pollinator species from multiple bulk insect samples; computational and statistical methods in community and landscape ecology using R and ArcGIS software; preparation of outputs for peer-reviewed publication.

Person specification

We seek an enthusiastic and versatile scientist with a strong interest in community ecology, landscape ecology and/or field entomology. Experience of molecular ecology methods is highly desirable, although training will be given. Excellent people skills are also needed for this position as the student will be liaising with farmers.

References

  • 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.
  • Mandelik, Y., Winfree, R., Neeson, T. & Kremen, C. 2012. Complementary habitat use by wild bees in agro-natural landscapes. Ecological Applications 22: 1535–1546.
  • Morandin, L.A. & Kremen, C. 2013 Hedgerow restoration promotes pollinator populations and exports native bees to adjacent fields. Ecological Applications 23: 829–839
  • 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.

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