HDC project cost: £13,650
The extent to which biodiversity can be lost before it affects the provision of ecosystem services is unclear. Services such as pollination and natural pest control are the result of a complex netwok of interactions among species in a community. These services provide substantial, if not invaluable economic benefits to humans, particularly in food production. Many studies suggest that a large pool of species is necessary to maintain the functioning of ecosystems, especially in intensive agricultural landscapes.
Traditional orchards are a priority habitat under the UK Government's Biodiversity Action Plan and are rich in wildlife as well as providing social, economic and environmental benefits. This studentship will construct pollination and pest control networks for replicate traditional orchards and compare the structure and function of these to recently created and restored orchards. The topology of the networks will be analysed, in particular testing for the presence of compartments and testing the resilience of the network to node loss for the three different types of orchard (created, restored and ancient). Then, moving into large-scale commercial orchards, the student will predict how to better use natural pest control and wild pollinators to provide resilient and sustainable ecosystem services.