Does pollinator diversity moderate ecosystem function in agroforestry systems?

Lead Research Organisation: University of Reading
Department Name: Sch of Agriculture Policy and Dev


Agroforestry, broadly defined as the integration of trees into farming systems, is an approach gaining significant traction across Europe, and implementation of agroforestry is currently an option in the EU's Common Agricultural Policy. Evidence on how agroforestry can enhance insect biodiversity is growing; however, evaluations of these and other novel sustainable systems have traditionally focused on ecological measures of species richness or abundance rather than tangible benefits to farmers. This studentship will significantly advance our understanding of whether increases in invertebrate diversity contribute to ecosystem functioning or whether these increases are functionally redundant. To do this we will take the novel approach of investigating the effects of agroforestry on pollinator functional trait diversity.
This studentship will address two key questions:
1. Does implementation of agroforestry in arable and pastoral regions improve pollinator functional diversity, ecosystem functioning, crop yields and farm income?
2. To what degree could agroforestry help to mitigate pollination deficit and enhance pollinator resilience, diversity, and ecosystem functioning in different agricultural systems?
FIELD/LAB WORK. The student will employ a combination of field and laboratory approaches to investigate how agroforestry systems can influence the functional traits of insect communities and contribute to ecosystem functioning (pollination) in both arable and pastoral agroforestry systems. The student will combine data generated from their own field research with a pre-existing multi-year dataset held by the supervisory team. This will enable them to conduct the first longitudinal study to investigate the effects of implementing agroforestry on changes in pollinator diversity and ecosystem functioning over time.
MODELLING. Our latest research used a state-of-the-art pollinator model (poll4pop) to simulate pollination services across Great Britain, predicting significant deficits in eastern England. This suggests an urgent need to understand how farming practices could be modified to improve ecosystem functioning in these areas without reducing farm profitability, which can strongly influence farmer uptake. The student will use their own and pre-existing field data to augment the poll4pop model so that it realistically incorporates the impacts of agroforestry on pollinator communities. They will apply this improved model to investigate whether agroforestry could help mitigate predicted pollination deficits whilst maintaining farm profitability.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
NE/S007261/1 30/09/2019 29/09/2027
2754359 Studentship NE/S007261/1 31/10/2022 30/10/2025 Ellen Knight