Improving the Functional Connectivity of Grassland Networks for Plant-Pollinator

Updated: 2 months ago
Deadline: 17 Feb 2023

Loss in the area and connectivity of natural and semi-natural habitats in Europe over the last hundred years has placed not only numerous species under threat, but is also jeopardizing interactions between species crucial for maintaining important ecosystem functions, such as pollination. Despite protected areas covering now about a quarter of the land area of European Union, biodiversity has continued to decrease with only a few exceptions, suggesting that bold biodiversity-oriented governance is required also in landscapes beyond protected areas. Landscapes surrounding "islands" of the still well-preserved habitats and protected biodiversity hotspots have to support exchange of individuals and genes between isolated plant and animal populations. Maintenance of such functional networks is vital for preserving genetic variation of populations, which, in turn, is necessary for adapting to climate change.

In this project, you will improve understanding of the spatio-temporal effects of the area and structural connectivity of semi-natural grasslands - the hotspots of European biodiversity- on various aspects of plant-pollinator interactions in European rural landscapes. Project areas will cover Belgium, Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany and Sweden, where grasslands have historically been common. However, due to land use change, the area and connectivity of these exceptionally diverse habitats has dramatically decreased over the past century, threatening the functioning and resilience of plant-pollinator networks. First, you will explore the effect of both current and historic landscape characteristics in the study regions on plant and pollinator diversity in structurally well-connected and fragmented grassland systems. In addition, you will assess the availability offloral resources for pollinators by carrying out pollen meta-barcoding studies.Second, to further clarify the functioning of plant-pollinator interactions in maintaining the well-being and adaptive potential of insect-pollinated wild plants, you will examine pollinator visitation, fitness, genetic diversity and gene flow of an insect-pollinated self-incompatible grassland plant. Third, you will be involved in mapping the main stakeholder groups and explore whatare their motivations and options to plan and manage remnant and marginal landscape elements in a biodiversity friendly. Building on the results, the project will propose tools to maintain sustainable levels of biodiversity at landscape, community and genetic level through securing resilientplant-pollinator interactions, and will aim to propose win-win solutions for different stakeholder groups in supporting plant-pollinator networks of European rural landscapes through improved multi-actor governance.

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