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.
13:00 Verity Miles: Counting badgers: it’s not all black and white
Badgers (Meles meles
) are one of the UK’s most charismatic animals and yet, most people rarely see them. So, how do we know how many badgers there are in the UK? And why does this information matter? This research aims to test a novel approach to counting animals, using remote cameras and the theory of particle collision. The model is applied to badgers, which are implicated in the transmission of Tuberculosis (TB) and where data on population size is vital to controlling the spread of the disease. Over 200 cameras have been placed in random locations across four sites in Cornwall to capture images of badgers as they move around their environment. In addition, 81 badgers have been given unique markings on their fur during the vaccination procedure, which will function as an alternative method of estimating population size. Data analysis will compare two methods of estimating animal density and use this information to answer key questions about the control of TB.
13:15 Rachael Thornley: Spectral variance in grasslands as a proxy for taxonomic and phenological diversity
The Spectral Variation Hypothesis (SVH) proposes that the variance in spectral reflectance within a given area can be used as a proxy for either plant species or community diversity. The hypothesis has been tested at varying scales, from those of land cover types using broad-band satellite data products down to the leaf-level with close-range imaging spectrometers. However, the relationship between spectral information and species diversity when examined over time and space has been shown to be inconsistent. Inter-annual studies with similar sampling dates in temperate systems suggest this inconsistency is not merely a product of ‘time of year’ but may be due to a complex relationship between reflectance and seasonally dynamic leaf and canopy traits. We collected repeat taxonomic and phenological inventories of grassland plant communities, alongside high resolution hyperspectral reflectance data of canopies in order to test the SVH theory over a growing season. Although at some sampling dates there was a good positive correlation between spectral variance and species / phenological variance, this relationship was not consistent over the growing season. Across the data set, we found that spectral variance was most affected by the number of species in the sward displaying leaves at mature growth stage. A significant interaction term of mature material and species diversity was also found, with the most parsimonious model explaining 43% of the intra-annual change. These results indicate that the dominant canopy phenology stage is a confounding variable when examining the spectral variance -species diversity relationship. We emphasise the challenges that exist in tracking species or phenology-based metrics in grasslands using spectral variance but encourage further research that contextualises spectral variance data within seasonal plant development alongside other canopy structural and leaf traits.
13:30 Angela Bartlett: Non-random characteristics of alien plant species across invasion stages in Australia
Human-mediated transport of species to non-native locations forms the initial stage of the invasion pathway. Factors relating to the introduction stage and non-random selection of plants to introduce constitute important drivers for species’ movement through invasion stages. However, trait-based biosecurity profiling of known successful invaders bypasses assessment of the introduction stage. Here, we use a comprehensive list of known alien plant species introduced to Australia to compare species-traits and factors relating to species introductions across invasion stages. Human-mediated introductions of plant species have resulted in at least 34,122 alien plant introductions to Australia, 4,483 of these have moved through the invasion pathway to naturalise, and a further 580 are invasive. We show that patterns of non-random selection of plant species to introduce are evident in later stages of invasion, and that residence time was the most important controlling factor for invasion stage, and in some cases may be able to predict the likelihood of introduced species naturalising and becoming invasive. The number of introduction pathways was identified as the second most important predictor of invasion stage, with introduction pathway numbers increasing through invasion stages. Observed increases in naturalised and invasive species numbers increasing with numbers of species introduced from a particular region, is indicative of colonisation pressure driving invasion success.
13:45 Katie Powell: Delivering the Local Nature Recovery Strategies
Local Nature Recovery Strategies (LNRS) will be introduced from April 2022 by the UK Government as a way of spatially planning habitat conservation and restoration on local scales in England. In my placement with the UK Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology, I researched how this policy is laid out in the Environment Bill, the ecological network theory and restoration science underlying it, and the opportunities and challenges surrounding the future implementation of LNRS. LNRSs themselves will be stakeholder-informed habitat maps, laying out locally important habitats and sites for nature alongside priorities for future habitat restoration. Defra intend that implementation of priorities laid out in these maps deliver a range of policies and strategies laid out by the Government, such as the England Woodland and Peat Strategies. From discussions with stakeholders during my placement, it was clear that LNRSs may have the potential to tie together policy areas to deliver a multifunctional landscape for the benefit of nature and people. However, huge challenges lie ahead for LNRS delivery, such as the need for working across spatial and administrative boundaries, major funding requirements which are not set in stone, and a lack of foresight around monitoring and adaptive management of strategies.