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Project Title: Biodiversity loss, seasonal fluctuations, and preserving ecosystem services for tropical agriculture
Human activities are transforming complex primary rainforests into simplified agricultural habitats. This rainforest degradation endangers both biodiversity and the billions of pounds worth of essential services provided by wild animals, such as pest control and crop pollination. To conserve biodiversity and the livelihood of local communities, we must utilise managed habitats in ways that sustain species diversity. One poorly investigated driver of biodiversity loss in agricultural habitats is the loss of seasonal interactions between plants, insects and the birds that prey on them, with consequent increased seasonal fluctuations in resources.
My project addresses this risk to conservation and ecosystem services by exploring how human-modified habitats can be made more suitable for sustaining biodiversity throughout the seasons. My research will focus on the rainforest belt in Cameroon, an area of high biodiversity, where a large share of global cocoa is farmed either within forests or in cleared plantations. Using cutting-edge genetic and statistical methods, I will investigate how seasonal fluctuations are reflected throughout the food web in insects and birds, and whether altered seasonal interactions lead to loss of biodiversity and reduction in ecosystem services such as pest regulation.
Awarded: Carnegie-Caledonian PhD Scholarship
University: University of Glasgow