The diversity of plants and animals found on modern farms has been severely depleted owing to the simplification of landscapes and intensification of crop production. This has had negative consequences for the ecosystem services of pollination and pest control as well as compromising the cultural value of the countryside. There is now a broad consensus that new ways of farming need to be found that better reconcile food production with biodiversity – a philosophy that is currently being captured in the movement towards “regenerative agriculture”. This project will look at the opportunities and barriers to re-diversifying farms, applying the principles of community ecology with a focus on the positive and negative functions farmland plants (including weeds) play in the agroecosystem. By combining field and farm scale surveys of plants and associated invertebrate communities with larger scale data on landscape features and regional species pools, the project will seek to understand why farms are more or less biodiverse and identify opportunities for improvement. As well as working on a commercial farm network, you will also spend time at sites with important national and international conservation status because of their assemblages of rare arable weeds. You will aim to understand why these species have declined in the wider landscape so as to make a contribution to their continued conservation. The PhD will be embedded within a larger project (AgZero+) that is providing the evidence to transition towards more sustainable farming systems and, as well as benefitting from working as part of the large team of experts across Rothamsted, Lancaster and UKCEH, you will also have access to established farm networks and experimental platforms. These include the famous Broadbalk Experiment at Rothamsted – the longest running field experiment in the world – and a new systems level experiment studying regenerative agriculture.
Candidates shall be good honours graduates in appropriate subject areas, of a recognised university or comparable university, or persons holding equivalent qualifications who show evidence of exceptional ability, or who have demonstrated their ability in graduate studies.
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