Laura Sivess

Laura Sivess

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Laura Sivess

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Start Year

2018 (Cohort 5)

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PhD Project
PhD Title

Does latitude matter? Aquatic-Terrestrial Food Webs in Lentic and Lotic Systems: A Stable Isotope and Molecular Approach

Research Theme

Biodiversity and Ecology

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Understanding how ecosystems function is a fundamental goal of ecological research, informing and enhancing conservation efforts. Food webs describe the connectivity of biotic components within their abiotic parameters. Traditionally, food webs have been researched within anthropogenically perceived groupings, separating ecosystems into compartments, for example, aquatic vs terrestrial. Researching cross-ecosystem boundaries offers a functional insight into whole ecosystem dynamics, driven by the connectivity between ecosystem compartments.

This project will investigate the influence of emerging aquatic insects (allochthonous resources) into recipient terrestrial ecosystems, describing variation in isotopic niche breadth and community structure with distance from the water source. A complementary combination of modern techniques will be used to describe niche breadth across a range of trophic levels including, detritivores, consumers and top-level predators (vertebrates: birds and bats, invertebrates: spiders and insects). Molecular analysis (metabarcoding) will provide a high-resolution, taxonomically informative, snapshot (24-48hrs) of feeding interactions and species associations while stable isotope analysis yields a description of interactions over longer time periods (months).

This multi-proxy investigation into aquatic-terrestrial linkage will establish differences in cross-ecosystem connectivity, comparing: lentic and lotic ecosystems, sites across a broad latitudinal range (Brazil to Iceland) and temporal variation at temperate sites (UK). Thus, addressing the gap of empirical data, collected using comparable methods, across a large latitudinal gradient.

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