Simulating plant diversity change
How will plant species respond to changing situations in the future?
How do different land management decisions impact on the future distribution and status of plant species?
To find the answers to these questions, we simulate the responses of different plant species to changes in their environment.
How do UK peatlands respond to climate change?
This project aims to predict the responses of plant species in UK peatlands, particularly bryophytes, to climate change.
UK peatlands are huge carbon stores made up of waterlogged soils full of dead or decaying plant matter. We identified peat bog areas in Scotland vulnerable to increased drying under future climate scenarios. The carbon emitted from drying peat bogs can be greater than the carbon captured by the trees that colonize them.
Informing peatland management
We want to know how different land management decisions impact on the future distribution and status of peat bog plant species. This information will help manage competing land-use requirements by advising where it would be possible to increase woodland cover while maintaining the quality and extent of peatland.
Our work also investigates the susceptibility of peat bogs to colonization by invasive species, such as birch, spruce and rhododendron.
We are collaborating with colleagues at the Universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh and with Peatland ACTION, a Scottish-based NGO working with Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).
Peat bogs in a changing climate
We identified peat bog areas in Scotland vulnerable to increased drying under future climate scenarios.
The importance of functional diversity for ecological stability
To demonstrate the importance of functional diversity for ecological stability, we will extract plant trait information from taxonomic literature for UK species. We will use this, along with non-taxonomic traits such as growth rates and dispersal distances, to capture species-level dynamics in growth, competition and dispersal between species and predict their occurrence now using additional soil cover and land-use data for the UK and in response to future changes in climate.
The aim is to determine the measurable threshold for net negative or positive biodiversity change that can be detected by various measures of biodiversity, in the presence of the stochastic noise inherent in any biological system.
We will use available distribution data for UK plant species to test predictions of their occurrence, and the impact of planned and expected land-use and climate change to guide future decision making.