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Ecology and Conservation

Ecology and conservation at Lancaster Environment Centre uses ecological, behavioural and molecular techniques to understand how ecosystems function, how they respond to global change, and how they can be managed to enhance biodiversity and its associated services.

The ecology and conservation of hyper-diverse tropics

Our work in the hyper-diverse tropics focusses on both forests and coral reefs, where we examine how human activities are influencing species conservation, ecosystem functioning and the livelihoods of local people. Within reefs, this research examines how bleaching events influence fish assemblages, ecosystem stability, and ecosystem recovery. Within tropical forests, we are examining how fires and logging influence species of conservation concern and forest resilience.

Insect biodiversity and global change

We are investigating how environmental change affects insect biodiversity and ecosystem functions and services such as pollination and pest-control. We undertake observational studies on how individual species and whole communities are responding to climate change and habitat degradation, and use field manipulations and lab experiments to unravel the mechanisms underlying their responses.

Ecology of host-parasite interactions

We are studying the ecological and evolutionary interactions between parasites and their animal hosts. This includes fundamental studies of how the immune system evolves and phenotypically responds to challenges by parasites, as well as the development and use of biological pesticides to improve food security. Study systems include insects, birds and mammals and their bacterial, viral and nematode parasites in the UK and Africa, especially African armyworms and their viruses.

Behavioural ecology

We examine breeding and behavioural ecology using birds as a readily observable group of species which can provide data at the level of the individual. These studies allow us to understand life-history constraints of species in the face of climate change, and explore fundamental questions such as parent-offspring conflict, song development and sibling competition.

Carbon and nutrient cycling

We examine carbon cycling across many terrestrial systems, including tropical and temperate forests, grasslands and moorlands.  The research examines how climate, soil, microbes and biogeochemistry interact to affect nutrient cycling, developing an understanding of how ecosystems function and quantifying their likely feedbacks with climate change.