PHD Project

October 10, 2017

Modelling the impact of agri-environment scheme options on soil and vegetation

Modelling the impact of agri-environment scheme options on soil and vegetation

Would you like to earn a PhD doing research at the cutting edge of biodiversity, ecosystem services, land-use change and agriculture? Would you like to produce novel science that could help shape land management schemes after Brexit? We are looking for an enthusiastic, numerate student with a passion for ecology. The project will statistical 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 spent around £119 million by the end of 2015 on the new Glastir scheme but do these and previous schemes deliver the intended benefits? 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 UK Honours Degree at 2:1 level or equivalent in subjects such as Ecology or Environmental Science. Familiarity with the R programming environment would be a big advantage.

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