Title of PhD: Impacts of environmental stressors on the River Itchen Ranunculus community
Supervisors: Dr Lesley Batty, Dr Mark Ledger, Dr John Bridgman (University of Birmingham), Shirley Medgett (Environment Agency South)
Alex’s research aims to develop an understanding of the aquatic plant community within the River Itchen, Hampshire. As key components of the chalk stream environment, submerged aquatic macrophytes are responsive indicators to changes in river conditions, and are intrinsically linked to the overall health of the stream ecosystem. Concerns over the slow decline in plant quality, associated with the term coined ‘Chalk Stream Malaise’ representing an overall decrease in ecosystem conditions, have prompted a need for the improved assessment of community status and a greater understanding of the roles of principal controlling environmental variables. As chalk streams become increasingly pressured by the effects of water abstraction, diffuse nutrient input and increased siltation, greater knowledge of chalk stream flora will inevitably allow the development of more robust management regimes to aid conservation in these sensitive ecosystems.
The project is fully funded by the Environment Agency.
As an additional element to his research, Alex (along with his supervisors) was awarded a NERC NBAF Award in 2011, which provided funding to incorporate environmental metabolomics into the project. This aspect is entitled “Identification of the sub-lethal response of Ranunculus penicillatus subsp. pseudofluitans var. pseudofluitans to environmental stresses using a metabolomic approach”.