Zarah Pattison

PhD Research Student

Supervisors: Dr Nigel Willby, Dr Mario Vallejo-Marin

MRes. in Ecology and Environmental Biology– Royal Holloway University of London (2011-2012)
BSc. (Hons.) Ecology and the Environment – Royal Holloway University of London (2008-2011)

Start Date: 5th November 2012

3A124C, Cottrell Building
Biological & Environmental Sciences
Faculty of Natural Sciences
University of Stirling
Stirling
Scotland, FK9 4LA

tel: +44 (0)1786 466544
fax: +44 (0)1786 467843
email: Zarah Pattison
Twitter: @ZarahPattison

Research Project

The comparative ecology and effects on native flora of riparian, invasive alien plants and their response to changing flow regimes.

Biological invasions pose a major threat to native biodiversity. Riparian habitats are particularly vulnerable to invasion by invasion alien plant species (IAPs), as they are dynamic and frequently disturbed. Riparian plant species composition is driven in part by a combination of flow and geomorphological factors that can influence the dominance of species with different life history traits. Increasing evidence suggests that climate is changing in response to anthropogenic activity and that this is translated into effects on river flows. The increased frequency of high-flow, events occurring as a result of climate change, has the potential to greatly affect the dispersal and success of invasive plant species. Rivers in the west of Scotland have increased in mean flow and have experienced a greater frequency of high flows since the 1970’s. It is predicted that average river flows and the frequency of high flow events will continue to increase in Scotland.

My research aims to address the comparative ecology of several riparian, invasive alien plant species (IAPs), namely Impatiens glandulifera, Fallopia japonica, Heracleum mantegazzianum and Mimulus guttatus, and their response to climate-induced changes in flow regimes. A range of rivers that vary in flow regime, including those that are regulated by dams or reservoirs, for water storage or hydro-electric power, have been used in this study. Vegetation surveys will be conducted at a much finer scale than those hitherto used in most river survey work and will thus allow the possible effects of IAPs to be resolved at different spatial scales. Germination trials with be used to assess the degree to which upstream dispersal of propagule (seeds and vegetative fragments) contributes to the existing vegetation. Population genetics methods using microsatellite markers will be used to assess the genetic diversity of I. glandulifera along these varying river systems.

Funding acknowledgements

This PhD is funded by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA).

A bank of the River Earn invaded by Impatiens glandulifera
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