Research on biodiversity in the Upper Lough Erne area presented at the 15th International Symposium of Aquatic Plants, February 19th 2018, New Zealand.

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It was exciting to hear that our abstract was accepted for an oral presentation at this conference dedicated to aquatic plants. The research presented attempted to explain the decline in diversity of emergent aquatic plants in the Upper Lough Erne area, Northern Ireland, UK and related change to landscape connectivity. This presentation was supported by NERC through my two postdoc projects, Lake BESS and Hydroscape.

 

PR Statistics’ Structural Equation Modelling course, October 2017

Although only halfway through this one week course, I am already blown away! I signed up to open new opportunities for my datasets and this course on Structural Equation Modelling (SEM) is exceeding my expectations. And here again, like on field work, lots of jolly Hydroscape camaraderie with fellow Hydroscape researchers Geoff Phillips, Alan Law and mad tweeter Dr ZP @ZarahPattison

Designing stuctural equation modelling and sharing with others

This course, organised by PR Statistics and delivered by experts Jarret Byrnes and Jon Lefcheck, is taking us through all the basic of SEMs and is designed for us to become independent in implementing SEMs using our own data – or even better to collect data that will make the most of this analytical method.

SEMs allow us to account for the complexity of the natural world when analysing data collected in the field and get to grips with direct and indirect cause to effect relationship among variables.

It’s taking place in Wales, by the way.

North Norfolk field work 2017

Underwater world in North Norfolk

One week of field work in North Norfolk, surveying aquatic plants and collecting water samples for analysis in the lab. Working as a team with my colleagues from the University of Stirling, we completed all the planned work, which was a mammoth task and only possible thanks to amazing team work. Amongst other things, we completed 34 surveys of aquatic plants (totalling 580 macrophyte observations across North Norfolk) and revisited all of last year’s 28 sites.

Sorting samples well into the evening after a long day a field work.

Galium cf. murale, Cardiff, UK – new to Glamorgan

I collected this intriguing little Galium with minute cream / pale yellow petals while in Cardiff, Wales, UK, last week for a conference not directly related to field botany. As it was my first time in Cardiff I got up early and went for a random walk – and my eyes got stuck with this miniature plant, growing between pavement cracks at ST19167594.

I first thought of Herniaria glabra – which would have been a surprise –, then looking closer, it reminded me of Sherardia arvensis, yet the pale yellow creamy tiny petals ruled this taxon out. When I got round to look at the specimen collected more closely from the comfort of my home lab, it did not key out well in Stace (2010). Could it be something ‘new’?

As I knew I would not have an opportunity to visit an herbarium in the coming weeks or months, I resorted to the online account of Galium from Flora Iberica (Ortega Olivencia and Devesa, 2007). The specimen collected matches very well Galium murale and no other taxa from Spain or Portugal. However, the plant found in Cardiff could be originally from another region of the World than the Iberic peninsula, so there remains a certain degree of uncertainty regarding its taxonomic identity.

Going back to Stace (2010), a more thorough inspection revealed that G. murale is mentioned as an additional species, but not included in the key. He also suggests that it may be spreading – which might prove right.

A quick internet search suggests that Galium murale has been reported to Britain and Ireland several times in the past, including as a wool alien in the past. In recent years, there is a 2008 report of a large colony in Sussex in a previous issue of the BSBI News (Nicolle, 2008). Looking at the BSBI distributions maps online there are six recent sightings in southern England, Wales and Ireland (excluding the Sussex population – 02/05/2017).

How to spot Galium murale? It looks a bit like Sherardia arvensis, or Galium aparine that shrank dramatically. However, there are important general differences: the general size (G. murale is a very small plant – see picture with one penny coin for scales), the size and colour of the four petals (cream) and the number of leaves by whorl (four). Important finer characters for identification against other Galium: forward pointing bristles on the leaves, cylindric ovary/fruit only partly covered by bristles.

In Stace (2010), it keys out as Galium boreale because of the whorls of 4 leaves but this was obviously not a good match with my plant. Ignoring this and going onto couplet 3, leads one to Galium spurium, however, the description and the size of this species did not match my plant.

Happy hunting everyone – a lovely little plant to be looking for in warmer part of Britain and Ireland. Best time of the year would be early spring/spring time.

References

Ortega Olivencia, A, and Devesa Alvaraz, JA, 2007, Galium, In Devesa Alvaraz, JA (Eds), Flora Iberica, Volumen XV, Rubiaceae-Dipsacaceae, Real Jardín Botánico: Madrid.

Stace, C 2010, New Flora of the British Isles, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge. Third Edition

Nicolle, D 2008. Galium murale – a foothold in Eastbourne? issue 109. BSBI News.

Lake BESS results presented at the BES-BESS Symposium 2017, Cardiff, 24-26 April

BESS – Biodiversity & Ecosystem Services Sustainability – was a £15M 2011-2017 research programme funded by NERC, the UK research council concerned with the natural environment. This conference was a wrap up event co-organised with the BES, the British Ecological Society and hosted by the Water Research Institute at Cardiff University.

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It was a great opportunity to present results from our Lakes BESS project, my first postdoc, and interact with a fun bunch of researchers with similar interests. It was also a chance to learn about the tremendous research advances in the field of biodiversity and ecosystem services achieved by BESS researchers and others.

The most thought-provoking talk was delivered by Kai Chan from the University of British Columbia, Canada. He defended ideas published in his 2016 PNAS paper:

Chan et al 2016. Why protect nature? Rethinking values and the environment PNAS  113 (6) 1462-1465. doi:10.1073/pnas.1525002113

His talk aimed to demonstrate that relational values drive biodiversity and ecosystem services protection, in addition to the commonly accepted intrinsic and instrumental values of nature.

Was the audience convinced? His talked certainly sparked great interest and numerous questions. For sure there is an empty gap to be filled around the classic divide between protecting the environment for its intrinsic value or for very utilitarian reasons. This simplistic intrinsic-instrumental value scheme is simply not sufficient anymore.

However, I remain to be convinced ‘relational values’ completely fill this gap – and even I remain to fully comprehend what is meant by ‘relational values’ – a notion I am not familiar enough with, as an ecologist.

The other outstanding talk I would like to highlight here is that of Elena Bennett from McGill University, Canada. She demonstrated with practical example from work carried out by her lab how ecosystem services can inform multifunctional landscape management.

She also finished her talk by reminding us about the “importance of the contributions of both nature and human action to the provision of services”, i.e. the natural environment does not simply provide us with what we need, quite the reverse ecosystem services also strongly depend on us working with nature, in a co-production.

Many other contributions could be mentioned here, including a whole session dedicated to ecological resilience. Our Lake BESS presentation was well received judging by the positive comments people shared.

My talk title was: Landscape connectivity is important for lake ecosystem function and biodiversity and I am pleased to share slides from the introduction and conclusion:

Lake BESS talk Cardiff for blogpostLake BESS talk Cardiff for blogpost2Lake BESS talk Cardiff for blogpost3

Methods in Ecology and Evolution cover page

The Oostvaardersplassen, palaeoecology and dung fungal spores made the November 2016 cover page of Methods in Ecology and Evolution, with our paper:

Baker et al. (2016) Quantification of population sizes of large herbivores and their long-term functional role in ecosystems using dung fungal spores. Methods in Ecology and Evolution. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/2041-210X.12580.

Follow this link for more information about this photo cover.

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Blog post for NERC Hydroscape website

Please visit the Hydroscape website to read how Hydroscape’s field work is the cherry on my research cake! This light-hearted post introduces some of my post-doc research using anecdotes brought back from our field work campaign in North Norfolk, the Lake District and the Glasgow area.

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Sparganium natans at it’s best surrounded by white waterlilies at Grizedale Tarn East, Cumbria

Blog post for Methods in Ecology and Evolution official blog

Please visit methods.blog to read about European Bison, Rewilding and Dung Fungal Spore. I was invited to write this blog post for the official blog of Methods in Ecology and Evolution following our article:

Baker et al. (2016) Quantification of population sizes of large herbivores and their long-term functional role in ecosystems using dung fungal spores. Methods in Ecology and Evolution. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/2041-210X.12580

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The Oostvaardersplassen. Photo: EM Kintze, I Van Stokkum