Hedges and edges: landscape effects on forest biodiversity and ecosystem function.

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: Sch of Biology

Abstract

Forests represent the native climax vegetation of most of Britain and Europe, and are important both for the distinctive set of species they protect and the diverse range of important ecosystem services they provide. Forests are often highly fragmented, and recent conservation guidance argues that larger and better connected patches should be a goal; yet the effects of this patchiness on ecosystem function are poorly studied.
This project will explore the effects of forest patch size and isolation -- and in particular of connecting features such as hedgerows or "stepping-stones" -- on the biodiversity of forest specialist taxa in a set of well-studied forest patches of known ages (the WrEN project). It may also be possible to augment this set of sites with additional ""experimental"" woodlots planted as part of farm woodland grant schemes, and other past forest planting initiatives. Remote sensing data will be explored both to measure connectivity, and to test potential links between multispectral reflectance patterns and forest tree composition and structural properties. In addition, the effect of forest patch properties on a subset of ecosystem functions and services will be explored, using surveys of edge-to-centre transects to parameterise models of patch size and biodiversity effects on e.g. above and below-ground carbon storage, and hydrological modulation. This in turn may be used to explore and model the scaling properties of biodiversity:ecosystem function relationships. The supervisory team is multidisciplinary, spanning spatial ecology and geography, with Forest Research as an industrial CASE partner. The work will provide experience in a range of research techniques ranging from field biodiversity surveying, through remote sensing and GIS work to ecosystem service modelling, and thus will provide excellent preparation for a career in research or management.

Publications

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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
NE/S007458/1 01/09/2019 31/08/2027
2287915 Studentship NE/S007458/1 01/10/2019 31/03/2023 Samuel Mark Hughes