Assessing the role of geodiversity in conserving biodiversity in agricultural Eurasian grasslands

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: Sch of Geography


Accumulating evidence indicates areas with high geodiversity (the variety of abiotic nature including geology, geomorphology, hydrology and soils - comprising geofeatures) support high biodiversity. The underlying mechanisms are not well understood but likely include promotion of habitat mosaics and refuges for many plant and animal species. Improving understanding of geodiversity-biodiversity relationships is not only fundamental to species conservation, but also offers unexplored opportunities to balance the maintenance of ecosystem functions with the need for agricultural exploitation.

This project will assess geodiversity-biodiversity relationships and their hypothesised drivers, mainly at the Tarnava Mare Natura 2000 site, Transylvania (Romania). This landscape of traditionally managed grasslands, including highly biodiverse wildflower hay meadows, represents habitat types lost across much of Europe that are targets for restoration and conservation. Tarnava Mare is also geodiverse: topographically, geologically, edaphically and hydrologically varied. Enhanced understanding of landscape-scale geodiversity-biodiversity patterns will support the ongoing conservation and management initiatives of our CASE partner and provide theoretical contributions in this topical research area.

The student will study: (1) between-geofeature connectivity (e.g. species movement between patches of a soil type) and connectivity provided by geofeatures (e.g. the role of streams or landforms in connecting habitats); (2) the extent to which geodiversity (e.g. landforms, ponds, soil types) may support or provide habitats for rare species; (3) hypothesised links between geodiversity, rare habitat types (including wildflower meadows - declining in some areas as sheep flock sizes increase) and ecosystem function. Data will be collected across taxa: birds, plants, small mammals and invertebrates (primarily key pollinators - butterflies, moths, bees), and related to land-cover change (from remote sensing and historical maps/images).


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
NE/S007423/1 30/09/2019 29/09/2028
2601072 Studentship NE/S007423/1 30/09/2021 31/01/2026 Lucy Benniston