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January 16, 2017

Modelling the impact of agri-environment schemes on plant communities and soils

Modelling the impact of agri-environment schemes on plant communities and soils 400 x 400 px

Would you like to earn a PhD doing research at the cutting edge of biodiversity, ecosystem services, land-use change and agriculture? We are looking for an enthusiastic, numerate student with a passion for ecology.

The project will use state-of-the-art modelling and existing very high quality field data to estimate the likely success of agri-environment scheme (AES) intervention in halting the loss of biodiversity using the new Welsh Glastir scheme as an exemplar.

In Europe, agri-environment schemes are co-financed by Member States. Expenditure for 2007-2013 amounted to nearly 20 billion EUR http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/envir/measures/index_en.htm . In Wales, Welsh Government plan to spend £119 million by end of 2015 on the new Glastir scheme. Since expenditure is large and AES are a key delivery mechanism for national and international conservation policy, it is critical to investigate the likelihood of success.

Proposed research will use species niche and connectivity modelling to explore two performance criteria related to the maintenance and restoration of biodiversity and natural capital; a) the completeness of plant community reassembly in terms of target species and b) the timescales taken to achieve varying levels of soil and vegetation change. Questions to be answered: 1) Will target plant communities reassemble in response to agri-environment scheme options? 2) How long will reassembly take? 3) What are the likely relative roles of soil conditions and dispersal limitation in constraining response?

At the end of the PhD you will have gained experience in modelling plant and soil responses to land management change. You will be familiar with environmental policy relating to agri-environment schemes in Europe and to biodiversity conservation. You will have contributed to the global evidence base regarding the role of land-use in constraining and facilitating vegetation change. You will also have gained experience in writing up your findings in high impact journals.

This project will suit a numerate student that has an interest in addressing ecological and conservation questions through the development and application of statistical models from field datasets. Training will be provided in modelling, statistics, field ecology and botany. Applicants should hold a minimum of an EU or UK Honours Degree at 2:1 level or equivalent in subjects such as Natural Sciences, Ecology or Environmental Sciences. Familiarity with a computer packages such Arc GIS, R or Matlab would be an advantage.

For further detail please contact Dr Simon Smart ssma@ceh.ac.uk