Project title: What are the environmental and biological factors conditioning current and historic changes in the aquatic plant communities of upland waterbodies in the United Kingdom?
Summary: Freshwater ecosystems and the biodiversity that they contain are some of the most threatened on the planet. The UK Upland (formerly Acid) Waters Monitoring Network was established in 1988 by the UK Government to monitor the effects of emission control legislation on the water chemistry and biodiversity of 22 lakes and streams across the UK. Aquatic plants are a key component of freshwater biodiversity, and detailed records spanning 30 years have been collected. To date, however, no systematic analysis of the aquatic plant data has been performed.
This novel project aims to (i) investigate the drivers of changes in aquatic plant diversity in upland freshwaters, and (ii) determine how these changes impact aquatic ecosystem functioning. Drivers to be considered include pollutants (e.g. atmospheric deposition of sulphur and nitrogen), climate-related changes in maximum temperatures, hydrology, flow and storminess, hydromorphology and additionally the changing light climate/ice cover environment in lakes.
The third aim (iii) is to examine the preservation and scientific potential of plant eDNA in lake sediments for reconstructing past aquatic plant assemblages. Plant eDNA and where possible macrofossil and pollen data from sediment cores will be compared with three-decades of historic biomonitoring archives of plant abundance and distribution records.