At times we want to not only know how species are responding now to the situation they are currently in, but also to predict how they might respond to changing situations that may arise in the future, or perhaps how different decisions taken regarding the management of natural landscapes might impact on the future distribution and status of plant species. In such situations we might try to artificially simulate the responses of different plant species to changes in their environment.
In this project we aim to predict the responses of species from UK peatlands, particularly bryophytes, to climate change, identifying areas of peat bog in Scotland that are vulnerable to increased drying under future climate scenarios and helping to meet competing land-use requirements by advising where it would be possible to increase woodland cover while maintaining the quality and extent of peatland, and its susceptibility to colonization by invasive species in the area, such as birch, spruce and rhododendron
For this project we are collaborating with colleagues at the Universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh and with Peatland ACTION, a Scottish-based NGO working with Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).
In order to help demonstrate the importance of functional diversity for ecological stability, we will extract plant trait information from taxonomic literature for UK species and use this, along with non-taxonomic traits such as growth rates and dispersal distances, to capture species-level dynamics in growth, competition and dispersal between species. We will use available distribution data for UK plant species to test predictions of their occurrence, and the impact of planned and expected land-use and climate change to guide future decision making.