Does connectivity affect the resilience of aquatic ecosystems ?

Theme: Biodiversity & Ecology

Main Supervisor:

Vivienne Jones

Geography, UCL

Second Supervisor:

Helen Bennion

Geography, UCL

Project Description:

Under stress, ecosystems can lose resilience causing ecosystem transitions (e.g. ‘tipping points’) which are generally associated with biodiversity declines and with a reduction of ecosystem services. It is hypothesised that, in undisturbed systems, high connectivity (links) enhances resilience by facilitating the interchange of individuals and genetic resources between sites, thus buffering the influence of external stressors. The proposed project will study the resilience of aquatic biota in UK lakes at different temporal and spatial scales along a lake-cascade of connectivity. The work will consist in characterising resilience of organism communities (e.g. aquatic plants, trichoptera, diatoms) and aligning this with how trace metals are transferred through connected aquatic ecosystems and the role of remobilised legacy trace metals in contaminating downstream waterbodies and their biota. This will be achieved by looking at turnover as a proxy for resistance, an indicator of resilience which will then be compared to today’s biodiversity and levels of connectivity. We anticipate there will be a mixture of field work, field experiments, laboratory work, and analysis of existing datasets.

You will join a team working on a large NERC-funded research project (https://hydroscapeblog.wordpress.com/about/) focussed on the implication of connectivity, stressors and their interaction to freshwater biodiversity in the UK.

Policy Impact of Research:

Ecosystem resilience is high on the policy and conservation agenda but how to define resilience? how to measure it? and how to implement measures to achieve resilience? This knowledge is urgently needed to guide the application of environmental policies related to resilience of freshwater biodiversity in the UK and beyond


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