Ecosystems Project: A novel framework for predicting emerging chemical stressor impacts in complex ecosystems

Project Lead: Prof. Guy Woodward

Grant Awarded: £2.5M

Background:

Freshwater ecosystems provide critical ecosystem services that underpin human societies and wellbeing: including water purification, carbon capture, and the maintenance of sustainable fisheries. However, these ecosystems are under an increasing array of threats, both in the UK and worldwide, especially from a wide range of new and emerging chemical stressors (e.g. antibiotics and pesticides). Freshwater biosciences and applied ecology are ill-equipped for dealing with these new threats: there is often little or no mechanistic understanding, or predictive capacity for anticipating how these novel chemicals will operate in the real world. This is particularly true for the ecosystems of the future that are being reshaped by climate and other environmental changes.

Our Vision:

We aim to unearth the general rules by which emerging chemicals function and alter freshwater food webs – from microbes at the base, through to apex predators in the fish community at the top. As such, this project will generate a new framework for predicting the ecological impacts of emerging chemical stressors and their interactions with climate change. This will include toolkits to identify early warning signals that new chemicals have entered the food web, as well as mathematical models for predicting indirect consequences. The models we generate will be generalised so they can be adapted to suit a variety of systems.

Specific workplans – (see the ChemPop (CEH) and Chemical Mixture Project (CEH) page for project details) To achieve the project’s objectives, it is structured in six interlinked work packages (WP)

WP1 – Ecoinformatics

WP2 – Bacterial Biosensors

WP3 – Food Web Modules

WP4 – Ecological Networks

WP5 – Modelling

WP6 – Policy, management and implementation

Research Team

Prof. Thomas Bell - Imperial College London (Lead WP 2)

Dr Emma Cavan - Imperial College London

Prof. Alex J Dumbrell - University of Essex (Lead WP 1)

Dr Robert Ferguson - University of Essex

Dr Theodoros Giakoumis - Imperial College London

Dr Danielle Harris - Imperial College London

Dr Michelle Jackson – University Oxford

Dr Eoin O’Gorman - University of Essex

Dr Samraat Pawar - Imperial College London (Lead WP 5)

Dr Kate Randall - University of Essex

Dr Emma Ransome - Imperial College London

Dr James Rosindell- Imperial College London

Dr Thomas Smith - Imperial College London

Prof. Nick Voulvoulis - Imperial College London (Lead WP6)

Prof. Guy Woodward - Imperial College London (Lead WP3 & 4, Project Lead)