Anthropogenic activity is changing marine ecosystems worldwide, with grave
consequences for their functioning1 and significant socio-economic costs2,3. The
spread of non-native species (NNS) is facilitated by a range of human-induced
factors, including climate change and, given their impact, NNSs are at the heart of
global (CBD) and national (GB-NNS Strategy) environmental policy. Biosecurity
options to constrain NNS spread in marine systems are limited, and a key question is
can ecosystems ‘protect themselves’ by selectively filtering out NNSs? Our existing
data suggest a combination of larval behaviour4, dispersal capacity4, community
structure5 and environment (e.g. local adaptation under thermal selection, see6) all
play important roles in regulating NNS establishment by filtering traits and/or
phenotypes that favour persistence across environmental gradients (e.g.
temperature). Our limited understanding of the relative importance of these
mechanisms severely restricts policy and management of NNSs. The student will
work to provide better understanding of the relationships between environmental,
biodiversity and NNSs establishment, and the potential to offset invasion, using a
non-native oyster as a model.
Objective 1: Dispersal limitation. The student will adapt a hydrodynamic model
(General Individuals Transport Model, GITM) and couple recent larval behavioural
insights4 to generate better predictions of NNS dispersal including network models
of local/regional connectivity across the seascape. CEFAS will provide the GITM and
provide training during secondment to Lowestoft.
Objective 2: Environmental filtering. Pacific oysters will be collected from locations
across a temperature gradient throughout its NE Atlantic range (Norway-Portugal)
and experimentally challenged with a combination of temperature and anoxia to
assess change in performance (clearance rate, respiration). Data will determine the
extent to which adults are abiotically limited, and whether there is evidence of local
adaptation of physiological traits.
Objective 3: Competitive exclusion. The student will use a series of manipulative
transplant experiments (described in7) to test the ability of the NNS to colonise
space in the presence/absence of native competitors in a variety of environmental
contexts (i.e. within/outside their ecological range8) and include results from Objective 2.
Objective 4: Heterogeneity promotes coexistence. Habitat heterogeneity can be
critical to invasion, NNS spread, and changes in biodiversity. Small-scale
heterogeneity (e.g. rugosity/substrate type) facilitates niche partitioning that may
promote invasion success by reducing competition with native species, and hence
The student will experimentally test if differences in habitat
complexity10 alters NNS recruitment success.
The student will acquire highly sought-after technical and academics skills in
ecological experiments and modelling. The supervisory team brings a track-record of
high-quality training and PhD mentoring. The student will join a vibrant community of
marine biology staff (22) and PhD students (45) at the UoP and can choose from a
range of UoP and ARIES training courses for continuing professional development.
They'll present their work at international conferences and alongside the Research
Impact Advisor, develop outreach/science communication skills. This project draws
on the supervisors’ strong track records in developing/running innovative research in
the areas outlined. The collaboration draws together this experience within a holistic,
multidisciplinary framework to tackle questions at the heart of sustainable marine