Human activities and climate change are causing widespread alterations to marine ecosystems. At the base of marine foodwebs, changes in plankton communities affect ecosystem services within and beyond the water column, including climate change mitigation and fisheries yield. Policy frameworks now recognise plankton communities as a critical aspect of marine biodiversity. In 2017 plankton indicators were first included in UK/EU marine biodiversity policy assessments, which applied a suite of indicators developed in collaboration with policy-makers to capture aspects of plankton diversity, functioning, and productivity. There is now an urgent need to address key questions on what the observed changes in these indicators mean. What are the signals from climate change versus eutrophication, pollution or overfishing? How do plankton indicators relate to one another and to those of other foodweb components? Answering these questions is critical for providing robust scientific information to support UK/EU biodiversity policy assessments and inform decision-making, which is urgently required by UK Government post-Brexit.
Building on the above plankton indicator development, and working directly with Defra, the candidate will apply statistical modelling approaches to data from the world’s most extensive plankton network to 1) develop policy-relevant plankton indicators for climate change (including ocean acidification); 2) analyse relationships between plankton indicators, determining which are most robust for inclusion in policy assessments; and 3) investigate links between plankton indicators and existing bird, fish, and benthic policy indicators to understand how these relationships change spatio-temporally. This work will be in collaboration with policy working groups and Defra to ensure relevance of outputs to UK/EU marine biodiversity policy frameworks.