Tagged / ecology

Academic Targeted Research Scheme (Sustainability, Impact and Consumption): Predator ecology and conservation

As part of the Academic Targeted Research Scheme, I started my new role as Senior Lecturer in Sustainability, Impact and Consumption on the 1st of July this year.

 

My research will focus on predator ecology and conservation and the project funded by the scheme is specifically centred on the porbeagle shark (Lamna nasus). The UK has several species of shark that call our waters home for at least part of the year and many are in dire need of conservation management. Highly mobile, migratory top predators like the porbeagle are important to understand and manage as they play vital roles in nutrient cycling, ecosystem linkage and maintaining food web stability as well as just being incredible species in their own right. Such species are also pretty difficult to study, especially in the marine environment!

Porbeagles are included on IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as critically endangered in Europe and the Northeast Atlantic, largely due to overfishing in commercial fisheries. They are closely related to great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) and share their more mammalian-like features of being warm-bodied and giving birth to live young, though they ‘only’ grow up to roughly 3.5 meters as opposed to the 6-meter white shark. Dorset is emerging as a hotspot for these elusive animals, which migrate to our shores in the summer months. They are proving to be a popular target in the catch and release recreational fishery, which provides a valuable opportunity to learn more about them.

Under Home Office licence, I’ll be joining recreational fishing trips and collecting small muscle biopsies from porbeagles and other sharks for stable isotope and fatty acid analyses. These analyses will provide insights into the relatively long and short-term diet and habitat use of the sharks, telling us more about their trophic ecology and movement patterns and providing information on how to best manage and protect them.

In addition to joining the angling trips, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of York, I’ll be conducting a survey of recreational shark anglers to gain insight into their perceptions of and attitudes towards UK shark populations and their conservation. In partnership with other external experts, I will also be running best-practice shark handling workshops with the aim of building capacity in the angling community and improving the sustainability of the fishery by maximising the health of released fish.

I am aiming to develop a suite of complementary projects alongside my work on the UK shark recreational fishery and am delighted to have already won some funding for a project on kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) trophic ecology, using stable isotope analysis of feathers to update our understanding of their contemporary diet. Furthermore, I am developing projects on small mustelids and big cats and am very excited to work on such a diverse group of species, conducting high quality research that will result in tangible conservation benefits for biodiversity and society. I am very open to interdisciplinary collaboration and would welcome anyone with ideas to get in touch!

BU Briefing – Trophic positioning of meiofauna revealed by stable isotopes & food web analyses

Our BU briefing papers are designed to make our research outputs accessible and easily digestible so that our research findings can quickly be applied – whether to society, culture, public policy, services, the environment or to improve quality of life. They have been created to highlight research findings and their potential impact within their field. 


This paper examines seasonal food webs of the invertebrates inhabiting the streambed of the chalk River Lambourn in England. Researchers conducted analyses of gut content (a dietary “snapshot”) of macro and meiofauna, as well as stable isotope analyses (determines the feeding links of an organism as it reflects its assimilated diet) of meiofauna to examine seasonal food webs of the chalk stream.

This study stresses the importance of temporal variations in food and consumer species composition for a comprehensive understanding of food web structure, asserted by similar changes in trophic structure depicted by gut content and stable isotope analyses.

Click here to read the briefing paper.


For more information about the research, contact Professor Genoveva Esteban at gesteban@bournemouth.ac.uk 
To find out how your research output could be turned into a BU Briefing, contact research@bournemouth.ac.uk.

 

BU Briefing – Environmental hydro-refugium by vegetation vigour in the Okavango Delta

Our BU briefing papers are designed to make our research outputs accessible and easily digestible so that our research findings can quickly be applied – whether to society, culture, public policy, services, the environment or to improve quality of life. They have been created to highlight research findings and their potential impact within their field. 


Climate shifts at decadal scales can have environmental consequences, and therefore, identifying areas that act as environmental refugia is valuable in understanding future climate variability.

The Okavango Delta is the largest wetland in southern Africa and renowned for its high floral and faunal biodiversity. Due to the Okavango’s distinctive hydrological properties, this paper aims to show how these properties reduce the amplitude of seasonal and decadal variations in vegetation vigour inside the Delta extent, and consequently, enhance its capacity to buffer climate, on at least decadal timescales.

This paper uses satellite remote imagery to show how a rift basin, given suitable hydrogeology, can provide a buffer against the influence of climate on vegetation growth and thus provide a relatively stable living environment for animals amidst an otherwise arid, desert habitat.

Click here to read the briefing paper.


For more information about the research, contact Dr Sally Reynolds at sreynolds@bournemouth.ac.uk or Professor Matthew Bennett at mbennett@bournemouth.ac.uk.
To find out how your research output could be turned into a BU Briefing, contact research@bournemouth.ac.uk.

Professor Adrian Newton in National Geographic

BU’s Professor Adrian Newton has featured in a National Geographic article ‘Apples of Eden: Saving the Wild Ancestor of Modern Apples’.

Reporter Josie Glausiusz explores the endangered wild fruit trees of Central Asia, drawing on Professor Newton’s expertise and experiences working to protect the fruit and nut forests in Kyrgyzstan.

In the article Professor Newton explains the genetic importance of the fruit there: “All of the apples that we’re eating today and cultivating originate from this area. So if we want to add genetic variation to our crops to cope with new pests or climate change, then the genetic resource is these forests. It’s true for apples, apricots, peaches, walnuts, pears. In terms of a wild genetic resource for cultivated fruit trees, there’s nothing like it on the planet.”

Read the full article, ‘Apples of Eden: Saving the Wild Ancestor of Modern Apples’, online here.

Find out about the Biodiversity, Environmental Change and Green Economy research theme

Staff and students have been extremely but successfully busy undertaking policy-relevant, interdisciplinary research science aimed at: increasing understanding of environmental change and its impacts on biodiversity, ecosystems services, the physical environment and human livelihoods, evaluating environmental management options and policy responses, developing sustainable solutions to enhance environmental conditions and human wellbeing.

Research into the green economy has included carbon storage and management, renewable energy, green tourism, sustainable design, leadership of sustainable development, and the linkages between the environment and the economy. 

Our research continues to be internationally recognized, as demonstrated in publications in leading journals like Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, ISME Journal (Nature’s Group), Proceedings of the Royal Society Series B, PLoS, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, Quaternary Science Reviews, and Journal of Human Evolution, amongst many others. We recently launched a globally unique Masters degree in the Green Economy, which is delivered by distance learning.  Fish Ecology was defined as a world leader by SCOPUS citation rankings in 2012.

PhD student numbers have increased by 200% since 2007 due to our success at attracting external funding for BU’s novel match-funded PhD programme, and increased success at winning externally funded PhD studentships.

Our contribution to the Festival of Learning was substantial – we organised 16 events and activities, all of them well attended and enjoyed by attendees. This included a series of events to commemorate the centenary of the death of Alfred Russel Wallace. As the co-discoverer of the theory of evolution with Charles Darwin, as well as founding the discipline of biogeography, Wallace has left a substantial scientific legacy. A wildlife walk was held culminating in a visit to the monument marking Wallace’s final resting place. One suspects that Wallace himself would have enjoyed the wildlife walk most of all, complete with encounters with snakes, beautiful butterflies and remarkable slaver ants – all elements of Dorset’s wonderful biodiversity.  Wallace 100 Celebration does not end here! A forthcoming event will take place on 12th of October in partnership with Thomas Hardye School (Dorchester).

The Poole & Purbeck Portal successfully launched in March this year, funded by Fusion. The portal is an on-line community to promote better understanding of our region’s unique natural and heritage assets.  Exciting opportunities, knowledge and expertise are shared on the Portal, creating a gateway for new collaborations across the region.  We invite you to join us by registering your interest on http://www.pooleandpurbeckportal.co.uk/

Dr Genoveva Esteban

School of Applied Sciences

 

Sign up to the Biodiversity, Environmental Change and Green Economy research themes here:

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EU Green Week Conference 2012 – a great opportunity to network for Partners

The 12th annual Green Week (the biggest annual conference on European environment policy) will take place from 22 to 25 May 2012 in Brussels. Last year’s Green Week conference attracted over three thousand participants from government, business and industry, non-governmental organisations, academia and the media.
This year’s theme is ‘Water’. There will be over 40 sessions overall, including a sessionon the afternoon of the 24 May on European Innovation Partnerships (EIPs), which will focus on the proposed EIPs for Water and for Sustainable Agriculture, both of which are currently under development; and two sessions on “Science in support of evidence-based environmental policy making (Part I)”, which are being held in partnership with the Commission’s Directorate General for Research and Innovation (DG RTD).
If you are looking to network, this is a fantastic place to do so!

The ocean colour scene: How plant pigmentation changes in response to nutrient levels

A diatom

Recent research has suggested ocean nutrient levels are affected by human activities. But what does mean for tiny single-celled marine plants at the base of the food chain?  Can they adapt when faced with decreased nutrient levels, or do they simply die? And what impact will this have on the rest of the food chain?

These are some of the big questions currently being asked by environmental scientists at Bournemouth University.

A new researcher in the department, Dr Daniel Franklin, has just published A coccolithophorea study on cell productivity under nutrient-restricted conditions, examining two important single-celled marine plants (a coccolithophore and a diatom).

The study is in response to growing concerns that the rise in ocean temperatures will restrict nutrient supplies to the marine plants at the base of the food chain.

Dr Daniel Franklin commented: “As the surface ocean warms, we know there will be an increase in stratification, whereby a warm skin of water lies over a colder, denser layer, which might restrict nutrient supply from the deeper water to shallow water and result in decreased productivity.”

The study just published in Limnology and Oceanography examined growth of the coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi, often found in the subtropical open ocean, and the diatom Thalassiosira pseudonana which is often found in coastal seas.

“We showed that E. huxleyi cells adapt to declining nutrients in order to wait for more nutrients, and don’t die” said Dr. Franklin. “T. pseudonana, however, which is known to grow quickly in response to increased nutrients, did not adapt, and quickly died. These two types of response reflect the ecology of the two organisms in their natural habitat.”

But in addition to understanding how sensitive cells are to nutrient changes, these findings could inform how we measure ocean productivity in the future.

“Measuring the amount of photosynthetic pigments, mainly chlorophyll, is how we assess phytoplankton productivity on the macro-scale. We measure pigments from satellites. As part of this work we have been looking at how pigments alter during cell decline so that we can refine our understanding of how productivity can be measured at the macro-scale,” said Dr. Franklin.

Satellite data

The full paper, entitled ‘Identification of senescence and death in Emiliania huxleyi and Thalassiosira pseudonana: Cell staining, chlorophyll alterations, and dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP) metabolism’ can be viewed through the Limnology and Oceanography website.