Advancing understanding of UK biodiversity trends and drivers of change using biological records

This project is available from the academic year 2023/24 onwards.

Theme: Biodiversity, Ecology & Conservation

Primary Supervisor:

David Murrell

Genetics, Evolution and Environment, UCL

David Murrell's Profile Picture

Secondary Supervisor:

Richard D. Gregory

Genetics, Evolution and Environment, UCL

Richard D. Gregory's Profile Picture

Project Description:

Since 2013 the UK nature conservation sector has come together to assess the health of biodiversity in the UK, publishing its findings in three ‘State of Nature’ reports. This project aims to advise future such reports by advancing our knowledge of UK species status and environmental drivers of change using the vast holding of biological records curated by the Biological Records Centre in the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.
The project will:
• Investigate recent drivers of biodiversity change such as land management, climate change and pollution, both at a broad level across multiple species groups and for particular groups and environmental drivers.
• Further refine the Bayesian occupancy modelling framework that currently underpins species trend modelling, for example understanding more about the sensitivity of the results to input model parameters.
• Explore the relationship between trends in species’ occupancy and trends in species’ abundance, and what both mean for the status of a species. Both measures are used in to assess progress to national and international conservation targets, but although trends in abundance and occupancy are often correlated their relationship and relative interpretation remains unclear.
The project follows on from a recent studentship using the same dataset to improve methods of assessing trends in species’ status from unstructured recording data using Bayesian occupancy models. This work vastly improved our ability to assess the status of previously poorly understood groups, generating over 5000 trends in species’ occupancy based on 24 million records.

Policy Impact of Research:

The work will advise future State of Nature reports, which have garnered significant policy interest and influenced the development of government biodiversity indicators. Many of the taxonomic groups under investigation provide important ecosystem services and so understanding their recent drivers of change may have important implications for policy makers.


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