Environmental and management controls on species diversity, traits and ecosystem function
Functional Traits are a method of describing how organisms fit into the functioning and behaviour of ecosystems. For instance plants with thick, dense leaves (or technically a high leaf dry matter content) are usually slow to decompose and hence can tell us something about the carbon cycle at a site. Plants with large seeds can often establish at low light levels and the abundance of them can have an impact on other trophic levels such as seed-eating birds or beetles.
In this project we are using these functional traits to build a link between environmental and management constraints on plant and invertebrate abundance and the character and rate of key ecosystem processes such as productivity and the carbon and nitrogen cycles.
The National Trust for Scotland and the crofters of the Balmacara Estate (near Kyle of Lochalsh) have kindly allowed us to use their land for this study. We have sampled plant composition, beetle and bee abundance, soil, productivity and decomposition rates from a range of habitats from arable to woodland.
Analysis of the patterns of species and traits will indicate how strong the linkage is between management and ecosystem processes. Knowledge of this is necessary to understanding the potential impacts of changing agricultural management on processes such as soil carbon storage or nutrient release.
Contact: Prof. Robin Pakeman