Biodiversity, Ecosystem function and Resilience

Dr Anne Oxbrough

Dr Anne Oxbrough’s research in the Biology Department at Edge Hill University explores the juxtaposition between biodiversity, ecosystem functioning and resilience in response to environmental change.

Globally, we are at a tipping point; in the era of the anthropocene, human-induced modifications to natural landscapes have resulted in significant biodiversity loss. Likely driving mechanisms are habitat loss, fragmentation, climate change, pollution and invasive species. However, the effect of this biodiversity loss on ecosystem function is only beginning to be explored and the key question of how can we ensure ecosystem resilience in to the future? remains unanswered. In this research group, work focuses on determining the mechanistic link between management in agricultural and forest systems, biodiversity and ecosystem function, with the aim of adopting management approaches that promote ecosystem resilience. We use a range of taxonomic approaches across temporal and spatial scales to address these questions in field and experimental settings.

Ongoing research

The influence of habitat quality on oviposition site selection for the High Brown Fritillary (Argynnis adippe) (2019-)

The UK population of the High Brown Fritillary butterfly (Argynnis adippe) is listed as “Critically Endangered’ due to a steep decline in abundance over 10 years (-85%) and a reduction in its range that has left it surviving in only four landscape areas. Current management strategies are based on research undertaken over 25 years ago, and whilst there have been extensive interventions at the landscape scale, the narrow niche requirements of this butterfly may not have been delivered at the micro-habitat scale.  This study aims to be the first to determine which micro-habitat features are important for this species, with a particular focus on the early stages of its life cycle.

Soil microbial functioning in mixed forest ecosystems (2019-)

Tall tress in the Forestry Research's Gisburn mixed forest experiment in North West EnglandThis project will determine how soil chemistry, microbial functional diversity and microbial functions are influenced by the interaction between naturalness (natives and non-natives), tree species (broadleaves, conifers) and tree diversity (two species mixes, monocultures). The research will be carried out at the Forestry Research’s Gisburn mixed forest experiment in NW England. This project is jointly funded by Edge Hill University, Forest Research and the Woodland Trust. It is co-supervised with Dr Lorena Fernandez-Martinez of Edge Hill University.

Spider diversity in stands of increasing tree species diversity. (2018-)

This project explores the influence of increasing tree species diversity and irrigation treatments on spider taxonomic diversity and guild structure. It uses spiders collected at the Orphee project, a long-term tree diversity experiment and part of the TREEDIVNET global network of sites. This project is a collaboration with Dr Hervé Jactel of INRA, France.

Multi-taxa functional diversity in UK commercial forest plantations (2016-)

Kirsty stood in a forest with tall trees.This project determined how taxonomic and functional diversity of spiders, beetles, vascular plants and bryophytes respond to changes in forest structure within a forest stand over a 20 year period through a harvest cycle in Scots pine and Sitka spruce plantation forests and will determine the resilience of these taxa to harvesting disturbances. This project was jointly funded by Edge Hill University and the Scottish Forestry Trust and was co-supervised by Dr Anne Oxbrough of Edge Hill University and Dr Nadia Barsoum of Forest Research.

The impact of grazing on upland biodiversity (2013-2017)

An area of upland calcareous grassland.Calcareous grassland is one of the most species rich and diverse habitats in Europe. In recent years conservation organisations have altered grazing practices to conserve the characteristic vegetation of these internationally important habitats. This project examined the impacts of contrasting grazing practices on spiders, carabid beetles and plants in upland calcareous grasslands. Many of the results of this project provided the first evidence of effects of contrasting grazing management in upland calcareous grassland.

Biodiversity in upland grassland landscapes [PDF] (2017-2018)

A stone wall separating two plains of grass in the countryside.This project works closely with land managers and owners to translate scientific research evidence base to workable recommendations for upland calcareous grassland grazing management. It is the first to have invertebrates, and not plants, as the focus.

Recommendations include prescriptions for grazing regimes over varying spatial and temporal scales.

UK carrion beetle diversity (2016-2018)

Carrion beetle, Nicrophorus genus.This project is a novel large-scale investigation of the ecology and phenology of carrion beetles in forested and open habitats.

It takes a broad geographical approach across a growing season to explore habitat preferences of species from the Silphidae and Leiodidae families.

Ongoing collaborations

Long standing and emerging collaborations continue to explore these themes with local, national and international partners:

  • Dr David Williams and Dr Nadia Barsoum, Forest Research, Forestry Commission, UK.
  • Dr Julieta Filloy. University of Buenos Aires. Eucalypt plantation biodiversity and resilience (2017-).
  • Dr Hervé Jactel, Bordeaux, INRA. Orphee Project. Investigating biodiversity and ecosystem functioning under the influence of a changing climate (2017-).
  • Dr Sebastien Seibold, Technische Universität München. Biotic agents of wood decomposition relative to global climate (2016-).
  • Professor John Spence, University of Alberta. EMEND The Ecosystem Management Emulating Natural Disturbance Project (2009-).
  • Professor John O’Halloran, University College Cork, Ireland: PLANFORBIO Planning and Management Tools for Biodiversity in a Range of Irish Forests; BIOFOREST Biodiversity in Irish Plantation Forests (2001-).