Abstracts for each presentation are below and the feedback link. Please take the time to fill out the form. Your feedback will be used to identify the best poster and best oral presentation as well as providing valuable comments for the presenters.
9:00 Laura Kor: The uses and stories of London’s plants: inspiring conservation action in an increasingly urban world
Increasing urbanisation means that more people than ever will primarily experience nature within metropolitan environments. Meanwhile, despite their importance to life on earth, plants are ignored and undervalued in many societies and conservation initiatives globally. In the face of this double challenge, this presentation will focus on London – a city described as the world’s largest urban forest – to discuss how highlighting useful plant species could help to ignite and encourage plant awareness and conservation interest amongst urban populations.
The range of useful plants recorded across London will be summarised, showcasing plant stories for some of the most commonly occurring species. This is placed in the broader context of the importance of plants and green spaces in urban environments and current issues of inequitable access and opportunities in conservation and ecology. We discuss how focusing on the biocultural values of urban plants could provide a route for nature organisations to reach broader audiences and harness growing environmental awareness into conservation engagement, support, and action.
9:15 Nick Dunn: Using environmental DNA metabarcoding to investigate the biodiversity of elasmobranchs across a remote coral reef atoll
Detecting species from environmental DNA (eDNA) is a rapidly developing technique that has the potential to revolutionise biodiversity monitoring. The ability to detect rare species that are often absent in traditional monitoring methods is one of the greatest advantages of using eDNA and is especially valuable for the monitoring of highly-mobile, elusive species, such as elasmobranchs (sharks, rays and skates). The ability to detect relative abundance of species using eDNA is still highly disputed and few studies have investigated this for elasmobranch species. In this study, water samples taken from around a remote coral reef atoll in the Indian Ocean were investigated to uncover the biodiversity of elasmobranchs in the area. The diversity and distribution of these elasmobranchs are described. We then compared eDNA copy numbers from silvertip sharks (Carcharhinus albimarginatus) using metabarcoding and quantitaive PCR methods to investigate the relationship between these two eDNA methods. Results from this will help determine the sensitivity and reliability of eDNA to detect sharks from water samples which will aid future biodiversity monitoring and conservation efforts.
9:30 Tom Weeks: Reduced functional redundancy of local avian communities leaves ecosystem functions vulnerable to further species losses
Land-use change is a key driver of avian species losses worldwide and can result in distinct changes to the structure and function of local communities. However, only modest declines in functional trait diversity have been identified along disturbance gradients. It is likely that this resistance is due to the removal of functionally redundant species which have limited impact on ecosystem function, but may leave the function of these communities vulnerable to further species losses. In this study of 1435 avian communities, we support the findings of only modest declines of functional diversity in response to land-use changes, but we also observe a significant drop off in functional redundancy. Next, we identify that this decline in functional redundancy reduces the ability of communities to resist further declines in functional diversity through species loss simulations. Together, these results indicate that the productivity of avian communities may remain high in human-modified habitats but the functionality of these assemblages is vulnerable to further species losses.
9:45 Stuart Negus: Connecting regional scale foraging habitats of immature to adult sea turtles with drones
To best protect threatened wildlife, their habitat needs at different life-history stages must be elucidated. Here, we used unmanned aerial systems (UAS) to explore the determinants of threatened immature (juvenile, subadult) and mature loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) distributions at a regional scale. We evaluated UAS-derived data (including turtle location, straight carapace length [SCL] and habitat type) and combined these with environmental records (including bathymetry). Surveys were conducted in the non-breeding season (September-October, 2019-2020) along 534 km of cumulative coastline across western Greece. Overall, 520 individuals were detected, with subadults being the most abundant group (50-65 cm SCL; 41% of all turtles). Turtles were generally detected at low densities along most coastlines, but 41% of turtles were in high density distributions (>20 turtles/km) in two distinct areas of <3 km coastline (within the Argostoli Gulf and Amvrakikos Gulf). High turtle densities were characterised by shallow (<5 m bathymetry), vegetated substrate and dominated by immature turtles (juveniles [<50 cm SCL] and subadults), representing 73% of all turtles inside the aggregations. In low density areas, subadults and adults (>65 cm SCL) were prevalent (representing 73% of all turtles outside of aggregations), particularly in waters of >10 m bathymetry. This large-scale survey suggests that sea turtles undergo an ontogenetic shift in habitat use from juvenile to subadult and adult life stages. Furthermore, it demonstrates that conservation efforts which target high density groupings fail to capture the habitat needs of all life stages in our study region, particularly for subadult and adult turtles. As 78% of all turtles were observed within 5 m bathymetry, we recommend the introduction of policies that regulate the intensity of recreational and fisheries use in the nearshore zone across the entire region to protect all life-stages.