Significant, global, environmental change is predicted by the end of the century, whereby warming will likely exceed the 2°C target specified within the Paris climate agreement. Understanding how… read more
Significant, global, environmental change is predicted by the end of the century, whereby warming will likely exceed the 2°C target specified within the Paris climate agreement. Understanding how particular ecosystems respond to changing conditions is a pressing concern within ecology, required to accurately predict future changes and thus to devise appropriate adaptation or mitigation strategies. A problem arises however in that temperature changes on a global scale have thus far remained limited. Patterns of warming however are highly variable, where parts of the Arctic have already experienced rapid warming of ~5°C, with resultant impacts upon plant traits and the structure of individual communities. By examining how plants respond to environmental change within the Arctic, wider conclusions regarding potential consequences of future climatic change for plant (and other) communities worldwide can be drawn.
My work examines the role geodiversity - the diversity of the materials and processes across the Earth's surface and subsurface - could play in mitigating the effects of environmental change. Previous studies have found strong relationships between geodiversity and biodiversity, with the emergence of the 'Conserving Nature's Stage' approach within conservation arguing that the abiotic environment is a 'stage' which biotic diversity plays out upon and therefore that by conserving abiotic diversity, we can preserve biotic diversity too. This is particularly pertinent at the landscape scale; whilst climate acts as a broad-scale determinant of ecosystem distributions, geodiversity acts at smaller scales, e.g. through the provision of microclimates, increasing available niche space. In spite of growing consensus surrounding its importance, little empirical evidence exists as to the role of geodiversity in buffering biodiversity against temporal changes, and particularly against current climatic change. This forms the basis for my PhD project.
Through fieldwork, UAV and other Remote Sensing based methods, I plan to disentangle the relationships between geodiversity, biodiversity and recent climatic change. My current work involves examining changes in pan-arctic plant productivity across the past 15 years to identify important abiotic controls (e.g. soil moisture) that aren't typically incorporated within models of arctic change. On a more local scale, I am also working to examine interactions between fine-scale geodiversity and biodiversity, and any spectral relationships that might exist between the two.