The interplay of land-use, climate and plant biodiversity on the UK stage

Lead Research Organisation: University of Glasgow
Department Name: College of Medical, Veterinary &Life Sci

Abstract

Landscapes are composed of different habitats as well as the biodiversity that resides within them, and are a product of interactions between climate, geography and human use. They provide many ecosystem services, such as provision of food and water, regulation of climate and carbon cycling, which are vital for a stable future for our society, economy, health and wellbeing.

It is now widely recognised that we are degrading the health of our landscapes through unsustainable use and long-term climate change, although it remains difficult to track these changes. In particular, plants form the basis of all terrestrial ecosystems, are fundamental to providing ecosystem services, absorb 20% of fossil fuel emissions; yet records on a third of plant species are so data deficient that formal assessments of extinction risk cannot be made. A key goal of the Aichi biodiversity targets set out by the Convention on Biological Diversity, sought to ensure the conservation of biodiversity through sustainable use of agriculture, forestry and fisheries and for which the UK is progressing at an insufficient rate to meet the 2020 deadline. Therefore, tools by which we assess current trends in plant biodiversity and explore the interaction with both environmental and land use are fundamental for ensuring the future of UK's plant systems. Current models of biodiversity use very coarse groupings of plants that lack the necessary level of detail to inform conservation planning and decision making.

Here, we propose to extend a modelling framework that we have been developing over several years at a global scale to focus exclusively on plants of the UK, of which there are over 1,800 species, in order to take advantage of the higher resolution and qualitatively more detailed records available for climate, land use and plant species. These simulations will predict potential change in plant biodiversity patterns over time based on different land use and climate change scenarios, which can then be used to understand the impact of these changes and ultimately guide future landscape decision making.

Planned Impact

The development of the first species-level plant biodiversity simulator for the UK will provide an urgently needed tool for assessing the biodiversity impact of landscape decisions. As such, it will be of particular importance to conservationists and policy makers, such as the Scottish Government and its bodies (e.g. Scottish Natural Heritage). Critically, the simulator will allow the user to compare and contrast different land-use change decisions and use them to evaluate their respective impacts on regional biodiversity. We will also be able to assess the ability of plant species to adapt to different climate change scenarios in the presence and absence of mitigating land use policy. In this way, the simulator draws together the two major strands of human-influenced environmental change, climate change and land-use decisions, and seeks to improve our understanding of the impact of these factors on the natural environment.

The broad implications of this research in terms of our understanding of the effect of policy decisions means that the results of this work will also be significant interest to the general public. Outreach activities through the Natural History Museum will promote engagement with people of all ages and backgrounds, and seek to inspire them to engage further with the impact of government decisions.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description A plant biodiversity simulator for the UK has been developed which will help understand how UK plant biodiversity will be impacted by climate change and landscape decisions. This is being taken forward in NE/T010355/1.
Exploitation Route Simulation environment will be made publicly available at the end of the grant for use by other researchers.
Sectors Environment

 
Description This grant has led to a new collaboration (detailed elsewhere) with Peatland ACTION, part of Scottish Natural Heritage, to help target their peatland restoration work.
First Year Of Impact 2020
Sector Environment
Impact Types Policy & public services

 
Description Diversity 
Organisation Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We have provided an understanding of the links between the fundamental mathematics studied by the mathematicians with whom we collaborate and the applied biodiversity problems that the ecologists we work with wish to understand.
Collaborator Contribution Tom Leinster at the University of Edinburgh has been providing mathematical expertise to understand the fundamental properties of diversity measures. Jill Thompson at CEH and Neil Brummitt at NHM have been providing practical assistance in understanding the underlying biodiversity that we are studying. Michael Krabbe Borregaard at NHMD has been working on development of Julia code to help with analyses.
Impact How to partition diversity (arXiv paper) multidisciplinary - maths, ecology, biodiversity BB/P004202/1 Mathematical Theory and Biological Applications of Diversity (further funding) multidisciplinary - maths, ecology, biodiversity, evolutionary biology
Start Year 2012
 
Description Diversity 
Organisation Natural History Museum
Department Lepidoptera Collection
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We have provided an understanding of the links between the fundamental mathematics studied by the mathematicians with whom we collaborate and the applied biodiversity problems that the ecologists we work with wish to understand.
Collaborator Contribution Tom Leinster at the University of Edinburgh has been providing mathematical expertise to understand the fundamental properties of diversity measures. Jill Thompson at CEH and Neil Brummitt at NHM have been providing practical assistance in understanding the underlying biodiversity that we are studying. Michael Krabbe Borregaard at NHMD has been working on development of Julia code to help with analyses.
Impact How to partition diversity (arXiv paper) multidisciplinary - maths, ecology, biodiversity BB/P004202/1 Mathematical Theory and Biological Applications of Diversity (further funding) multidisciplinary - maths, ecology, biodiversity, evolutionary biology
Start Year 2012
 
Description Diversity 
Organisation University of Copenhagen
Department Natural History Museum of Denmark
Country Denmark 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We have provided an understanding of the links between the fundamental mathematics studied by the mathematicians with whom we collaborate and the applied biodiversity problems that the ecologists we work with wish to understand.
Collaborator Contribution Tom Leinster at the University of Edinburgh has been providing mathematical expertise to understand the fundamental properties of diversity measures. Jill Thompson at CEH and Neil Brummitt at NHM have been providing practical assistance in understanding the underlying biodiversity that we are studying. Michael Krabbe Borregaard at NHMD has been working on development of Julia code to help with analyses.
Impact How to partition diversity (arXiv paper) multidisciplinary - maths, ecology, biodiversity BB/P004202/1 Mathematical Theory and Biological Applications of Diversity (further funding) multidisciplinary - maths, ecology, biodiversity, evolutionary biology
Start Year 2012
 
Description Diversity 
Organisation University of Edinburgh
Department Centre for Integrative Physiology
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We have provided an understanding of the links between the fundamental mathematics studied by the mathematicians with whom we collaborate and the applied biodiversity problems that the ecologists we work with wish to understand.
Collaborator Contribution Tom Leinster at the University of Edinburgh has been providing mathematical expertise to understand the fundamental properties of diversity measures. Jill Thompson at CEH and Neil Brummitt at NHM have been providing practical assistance in understanding the underlying biodiversity that we are studying. Michael Krabbe Borregaard at NHMD has been working on development of Julia code to help with analyses.
Impact How to partition diversity (arXiv paper) multidisciplinary - maths, ecology, biodiversity BB/P004202/1 Mathematical Theory and Biological Applications of Diversity (further funding) multidisciplinary - maths, ecology, biodiversity, evolutionary biology
Start Year 2012
 
Description Dr Anna Harper, JULES 
Organisation University of Exeter
Department Climate Change and Sustainable Futures
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We will develop our simulations to make comparisons with the Joint UK Land Environment Simulator (JULES), the land component of the Met Office UK Earth Systems Model (UKESM1). This involves the comparison of specific UK species to the Plant Functional Types (PFTs) simulated in JULES.
Collaborator Contribution Dr Anna Harper, one of the developers of JULES and an expert in vegetation-climate modelling, has provided guidance on the simulation of plant functional types and the development of the model system. In the future, Anna will provide outputs from JULES runs at a finer UK scale to facilitate comparisons with the plant biodiversity simulator.
Impact This collaboration is multidisciplinary, involving botany, ecology, biodiversity assessment, mathematics, computer science (high performance computing) and policy.
Start Year 2019
 
Description Peatland ACTION 
Organisation Scottish Natural Heritage
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We are developing our diversity framework and biodiversity simulation environment to target peatland environments to help Peatland ACTION (a part of SNH) better target their peatland restoration work.
Collaborator Contribution Peatland ACTION have provided us with expert advice and guidance on modelling of the peatland environment as well as a detailed understanding of how they operate, and data that they have collected in Scotland.
Impact One grant at the moment - NE/T010355/1 - which is multidisciplinary, involving botany, ecology, biodiversity assessment, mathematics, computer science (high performance computing) and policy.
Start Year 2019