Food webs at the landscape level: are we missing the wood for the trees?

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Biological Sciences

Abstract

Many conservation organisations have initiatives for protecting plants and animals which operate at the landscape scale. For example there are currently 110 Living Landscape Initiatives (Wildlife Trusts), 40 Futurescapes (RSPB), and 8 Integrated Biodiversity Delivery Areas (Natural England), plus the Nature Improvement Areas (Defra).

Food webs are very useful tool for studying communities of plants and animals and over a decade they have developed from simple descriptions of communities, to tools that can predict the results of environmental changes, such as global warming or species loss. Despite the strong move to landscape-level conservation though, food web studies are almost invariably conducted in small plots (e.g. 100 m2) in single habitats, to investigate, for example, pests and their natural enemies in a crop field, or pollinators and their nectar plants in a meadow.

Our aim here is to initiate a major change in the way we study food webs by working at the scale of the landscape (defined as a mosaic of different habitats). This proposal will allow us for the first time to understand how food webs interact in real world landscapes and how the various habitats (e.g. woodlands vs heathland vs salt marsh) affect the structure of landscape food webs, and delivery of ecosystem services such as pest control and pollination.

Our pilot data suggest that a mosaic of habitats is likely to be more resilient in to environmental damage than individual habitats. Similarly we predict better delivery of ecosystem services if a mixture of habitats are conserved. There is considerable opportunity for win : win scenarios here - better conservation of wildlife and better provision of pollination and pest control, the latter being critical for food security.

There are five objectives in our proposal:

Objective 1: Time is money in practical conservation biology, and networks which are more efficient to construct (i.e. cheaper!) are more likely to be used by conservation biologists. We will test whether food webs based on reduced sampling can still be used to identify the functionally most important species (i.e. those that support the most other species).

Objective 2: We will test whether landscapes composed of multiple habitats are more resilient to species loss than landscapes composed of fewer habitats.

Objective 3: Species that move between habitats are rarely considered in practical conservation, but could be critical for ecosystem resilience as they effectively "glue" the various habitats together. We will develop new mathematical tools to calculate how separate the various habitats are in a landscape, and conversely, how well they are glued together.

Objective 4: If nature reserves are adjacent to farmland, there is potential for the former to provide ecosystem services to the latter via mobile pollinators and parasitoids. We will test whether pollination and pest control improve in patches of strawberry plants as the number of adjacent natural habitats increases.

Objective 5: We will publish our findings in scientific journals and convey them to a wider audience, by: a) running three workshops for 90 nature reserve managers; b) working with the Bee Guardian Foundation to turn five towns in England into Bee Guardians; c) commissioning final year students to write reports for practitioners; d) running a blog; e) communicating findings to influential policy-makers.

The research team has the skills and experience to conduct research which will improve landscape conservation projects significantly. Led by Memmott, the team consists of ecologists and computer scientists, museum taxonomists and conservation ecologists. The latter all have long-term interests and influence in multiple landscape conservation projects and as can be seen from the letters of support, our project will provide the information that practitioners need for evidence-based landscape conservation.

Planned Impact

Our research will have short- and long-term impacts impacts outside the academic community, targeted towards 1) practitioners, 2) the community and 3) policy-makers.

1) CONSERVATION PRACTITIONERS

a) Collaborators: Seven collaborating conservation practitioners became involved in the proposal when Memmott attended a meeting of the South West Wildlife Trusts in 2011. Data from the proposed research are exactly what conservation practitioners need to help them plan and implement landscape conservation projects (see letters of support).

b) Practitioner workshops: Three workshops will be run, each for 30 applied conservation practitioners, on Landscape Conservation, Conservation of Ecological Communities and Conservation of Ecosystem Services. Course schedules will be designed in consultation with practitioners, thus ensuring that we are covering the topics of most interest to them.

c) Conservation organisations and final-year undergraduate students: Conservation practitioners will commission scientific reviews written by final year students. A critical review forms part of a Bristol student's final year work (it will be supervised and assessed by academics, but sent to practitioners thereafter).

d) Project blog: The project website and blog will be open to all, but aimed at practitioners, and will explain what research we are undertaking, why we are doing it, and how we are doing it. Memmott's Urban Pollinator Project has a similar website where activities are presented via blogs and twitter: http://www.bristol.ac.uk/biology/research/ecological/community/pollinators/index2.html

2) COMMUNITY OUTREACH

a) Schools: Working with eight Bristol schools we will run events demonstrating live biocontrol agents ('meet a predator' events) and bumble bee colonies ('meet a bee' events) for ca. 700 children aged 8-11.

b) Communities: Working closely with the Bee Guardian Foundation (BGF) we will turn five towns/cities in south west England into Bee Guardians. Bee Guardians make a commitment to manage land in a bee-friendly way by avoiding pesticides, creating nesting sites, planting bee-friendly plants, learning more about bees and spreading the word. Urban habitats like the countryside consists of a mosaic of different habitats so there will be parallels between our project and urban conservation projects.

3) POLICY-MAKERS IN TWO EMERGING POLICY INITIATIVES

a) National Biodiversity Strategies: Knowledge of the network properties of multiple connected habitats will contribute to the Biodiversity 2020 strategy. Potts' existing links to Defra and Natural England will ensure the effective delivery of our outputs to Government policy-makers.

b) Landscape connectivity initiatives: There are currently 110 Living Landscape Initiatives (Wildlife Trusts), 40 Futurescapes (RSPB), and 8 Integrated Biodiversity Delivery Areas (Natural England), plus the next phase of the Nature Improvement Areas (Defra). Ongoing links, via Potts, to all these initiatives will allow summary outputs of the project to be circulated directly to the main stakeholders.

IMPACT PLAN COSTING: We request £30.8K to implement our impact plan. This impact plan is a key part of our research, as it is the main mechanism for transferring our research findings to conservation practitioners and the wider non academic community. The impact plan costs amount to very small proportion of the project overall; we want a guaranteed impact and have costed it appropriately.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Title "Ecosystem Kerplunk" 
Description We created 2 large scale versions of the classic game "Kerplunk" to illustrate the importance of biodiversity in maintaining interactions and healthy habitats with good pollination services. Each one was either species rich or poor with picture of flowers on one side, pollinators on the other and bamboo canes connecting them. Balls representing ecosystem services (e.g. pollination) were poured in the top and supported by the interactions/canes. Participants could remove links to see the effect (i.e. the balls would fall in the species poor system faster and the system would be driven to collapse much easier - it was less robust). We could show the effect of damaging the habitat (removing all the links to certain flowers) or the loss of pollinators (removing the links from the other side) and show how the two are inherently reliant on each other. We could then get participants to build the system back up again and decide when it was likely to be stable as well as which one would support more pollination. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2016 
Impact Children of all ages really seemed to engage with this method of explaining the importance of maintaining interactions as well as species. As did their parents. We received very positive feedback every time we brought it to public events and it seemed to draw people into our stall in general so we had more engagement with the rest of our event as well. 
 
Description 2013 Landscape Newsletter 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Project newsletter describing the research and what we hope to achieve to practitioners and members of the public

Meetings and discussions with practitioners about the project and selecting sites for the 2nd field season
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013,2014
 
Description A talk at Lund University 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact I was the researcher invited by the PhD students from Lund University to give a Departmental seminar in 2018
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Ballast Seed Garden Talk 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A tour of the Ballast Seed Garden project with a talk about the Landscape Food Webs project to members of the general public. The audience was very engaged and there was a lively discussion and request for follow up information
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Bee and Pollination Festival Talk 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A keynote address to open the event and a follow-up talk on the 2nd day, both about nocturnal pollination. Very positive feedback received i from both members of the audience and the general public including requests for further engagement activities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Bee and pollination festival stall 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact An interactive stall showcasing the importance of pollinators including nocturnal ones. The stall was run by PhD students as well as members from the Landscape Food Web team and the event is attended by a wide audience. There was very positive feedback both during and after the event as well as requests for additional information.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Bristol Grammar School STEM Cafe 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact A talk at a local school that was open to both students and members of the public. Approximately 50 people attended and there was a discussion period after the talk. The school reported positive feedback from both students and parents
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Festival of Nature 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact We hosted an interactive stall at Festival of Nature for 3 days; the 1st of which was a school visit day. The was run by a combination of undergraduates learning about public engagement for a field course, postgraduates and The Landscape Food Webs team. Positive feedback was received from both the members of the public and the students helping to run the stall.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Food Webs at the Landscape Scale blog 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact We have recently started a blog highlighting what we are doing and showing pictures from field and laboratory work. We expect this to gain followers, but as it is very new, there are no current results to report.
Links to the field technician's blog working in NZ: http://nedbow.tumblr.com/?og=1


No direct impacts thus far
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://landscapescalefoodwebs.blogspot.co.uk/
 
Description I gave the Sir John Burnett Memorial Lecture at the National Biodiversity Network Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact An talk was given and questions taken afterwards
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Instagram photos of fieldwork on Landscape Project 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Uploaded photos of fieldwork in SW England during the summer field season 2015
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL https://www.instagram.com/landscapescalefoodwebs/
 
Description Invited lecture at CNRS in Toulouse, France by Jane Memmott 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Research talk about the word conducted on this project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Invited lecture at ETH Zurich, ETH Risk Center by Professor Jane Memmott 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Research talk
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Invited lecture given by Professor Jane Memmott during a British Ecological Society workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Talk given on life as an ecologist to students thinking of becoming scentists
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Invited talk at BES winter meetings 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Talk given on the NERC Landscape project to a pollination audience
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Keynote talk at Tropical Biology Association, Xishuangbanna, China by Professor Jane Memmott 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Keynote presentation at an International Conference presenting the data associated with this project
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Landscape Scale Food Webs Social Media 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact We have set up a Twitter account (@Landscape_Webs), Instagram account (http://i.instagram.com/landscapescalefoodwebs/) and a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/landscapescalefoodwebs) to share information about the project.


This is very new and therefore has had no direct impacts thus far.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2015,2016,2017
 
Description New Zealand Outreach - Citizens of Clutha talk 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Presentation of the project as a whole and particularly work going on in the Tautuku peninsula, question and answers session.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description New Zealand outreach - Karearea Newsletter interview and write up 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Article explaining the data collection on Tautuku field site, where the information was going and hopeful outcomes. Distributed all over New Zealand for nature enthusiasts.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Outreach Talk in New Zealand - Earthlaw event. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Charity and family run outdoor education centre, created to educate school groups and other visitors into wildlife conservation. Provided a stall to educate about the comparative data set being collected in The Catlins, New Zealand. Interview and write up column in Clutha Leader newspaper.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Research Talk at 3rd Symposium on Ecological Networks, Uppsala, Sweden by Dr Talya Hackett 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Research talk
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Research talk by Dr Alix Sauve at the Ecology Across Borders 2017 / BES, GFÖ, NECOV and EEF joint meeting, Ghent, Belgium 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Research talk given by one of the post docs on the project
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Research talk given at the University of Plymouth by Professor Jane Memmott 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Research talk given on the work done during this research project
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Research talk given by Dr Alix Sauve, Rencontres d'Ecologie des Paysages 2017, meeting of the SFE Landscape Ecology group, Toulouse, France). 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Research talk given by the post doc on the project
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Soapbox Science 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A public engagement event aimed to promote the visibility of Women in Science. Women scientists stand on a soapbox and talk about their research for an hour to the general public who are out shopping and not expecting to attend a science talk. TDH was the local organiser and spoke with the general public and a lab member (Samantha Ardin) was a speaker talking about the importance of pollinators and maintaining interactions using "Ecosystem Kerplunk"
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://soapboxscience.org/soapbox-science-2016-bristol/
 
Description Spacial Ecology and Conservation 4 Conference talk 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A session keynote talk about the project and findings at SEC4 conference. This conference attracts a combination of researchers and practitioners and policymakers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Spacial Ecology and Conservation 4 Conference workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact We ran an interactive workshop designed to cover 3 concepts relevant to the project: The concept of robustness, the need for a landscape level approach and the importance of looking across multiple habitats. We received very positive feedback from attendees and many reported a change in views.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description University of Bristol Bee and Pollination Festival 2013 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Stand about the project and invited talk (Jane Memmott): 'The Forgotten Pollinators'
University of Bristol Bee and Pollination Festival http://www.bristol.ac.uk/botanic-garden/events/2013/97.html

No actual impacts realised to date
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description University of Bristol Bee and Pollination Festival 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Invited talk by Professor Jane Memmott: Habitats for pollinators - the good, the bad and the ugly (and what you can provide in your garden).
Stand about projects at University of Bristol Bee and Pollination Festival

No actual impacts realised to date
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description University of Bristol Bee and Pollination Festival 2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Event on the role of pollinators in the food in your kitchen - common kitchen ingredients were on display (along with insects, nest boxes etc) and the pollinators responsible for strawberries, bananas, melon, apples, mango etc, etc were explained and discussed with several thousand people
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Windmill Hill City Farm, Wild Outdoors Day - ran a stall about the work done on the project 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact xxx
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016