Ecological priorities and real-world governance in the restoration of wetlands in the Humberhead Levels landscape: Do they differ and how can this be overcome?
NERC Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Programme
Fully-funded NERC studentship, starting October 2012 - January 2013 (negotiable)
Lead supervisor: Dr Helen Moggridge, Department of Geography, University of Sheffield
Co-supervisors: Professor Lorraine Maltby, Animal and Plant Science, University of Sheffield Dr Philip Warren, Animal and Plant Science, University of Sheffield Dr Liz Sharp, Geographical and Environmental Sciences, University of Bradford
Project Context and Details
The important role that wetlands have in supporting biodiversity and providing ecosystem services is increasingly recognised and this has provided an impetus for a number of landscape-scale wetland restoration initiatives. Whilst the extensive re-creation of entire wetland landscapes is desirable, this is rarely feasible in the UK; rather, new or restored wetlands must be integrated as patches into existing multi-functional landscapes, interspersed with agricultural land and urban areas. The size, quality, location and connectivity of these patches within the landscape are critical to determining species and landscape diversity and the ecosystem services provided. This presents unique challenges to biodiversity conservation and ecosystem service enhancement, at the interface between ecology and societal issues of perception, preference and governance. The aim of this project is to examine the ecological and societal opportunities and constraints in relation to increasing wetland functionality using the Humberhead Levels (HHL) Nature Improvement Area as a case study.
This project will address the fundamental question:
What are the relative influences of ecological principles of biodiversity and other ecosystem service benefits and 'real-world governance' issues in shaping landscape-scale habitat restoration?
Specifically, the key objectives of the study are:
- To establish a typology for, and assess the form and spatial structure of, wetland patches in the HHL area, and map onto this known information about: major biodiversity patterns, indicators of ecosystem service provision and metrics of ecological functionality (for example, habitat size, connectivity and land use). These represent the three main types of ecological knowledge that could potentially inform habitat restoration, enhancement and creation schemes.
- To use this information to test (a) whether prioritization of locations for wetland restoration developed from these information sources are coincident, and, (b) how the restoration sites in the NIA score on these metrics.
- To identify the actual decision making processes used in the NIA project, focusing especially on the information used to choose the location and form of intended restoration.
- To compare the two approaches and the extent to which any disparity results from limitations of ecological information/understanding, or from societal issues, such as contrasting value systems, and the implications of these disparities for ecosystem service provision.
- To assess, through an evaluated intervention in the HHL process, the potential for evidence exchange or dialogue opportunities to help resolve the differences between ecological and societal restoration preferences in HHL and elsewhere.
This project takes a truly interdisciplinary approach to investigate the opportunities and challenges of wetland restoration within a multi-functional landscape. The study will further understanding of the biological outcomes (both for biodiversity and other ecosystem services) of wetland restoration within the HHL, investigate decision-making processes in the HHL and identify opportunities for evidence exchange. This novel research will have strong academic merit, will have tremendous value to the HHL NIA and have an important application to other landscape-scale conservation projects.
The prospective student should have, or expect to receive, a minimum upper 2.1 BSc or MSc degree in a related discipline.
Application and Further Information
Applications should be made online by 1 September 2012. Please ensure that a two-page CV and references are included with the application.
Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact Dr Helen Moggridge (firstname.lastname@example.org) ahead of this deadline to register their interest for the PhD.
Please also contact Dr Moggridge of you would like any further information, have any queries or wish to make an application after 1 September 2012.