The aim of this work is to conduct national scale analysis to determine how multiple stressors (linked to urban or agricultural land use, acidification, invasive stress) interact with connectivity to affect biodiversity, ecosystem function, invasibility, the impacts of pollutants and the potential for disease spread over multiple scales. This will address our central proposition that the influence of connectivity is greatly dependent on anthropogenic stress.
A particular objective is to study the impact of different forms of connectivity on biological invasion of freshwater ecosystems across the UK.
Most studies of pressure-response relationships in freshwaters have focused on local waterbody characteristics, whether examining nutrient flow through food webs or community composition. Position in the landscape, and connectivity within and between catchments, is generally ignored. The few exceptions include CEH’s analysis of lake macrophytes and lake studies that include cross-scale landscape interactions.
However, unrivalled long-term and spatially-explicit UK datasets now allow us to characterise sites in terms of biodiversity change and exposure to multiple stressors, and to derive inclusive estimates of connectivity covering hydrology, spatial proximity and biological vectors.
Combining these sources of information and integrating them within project Hydroscape will deliver a paradigm shift in our understanding of how freshwater ecosystems function across multiple scales.