How do bryozoans travel?

‘How do bryozoans travel?’ is one of the questions we are going to address within our project. Beth Okamura is telling more about this aspect of our work:

“This summer we are planning to collect dormant propagules called statoblasts that are produced by freshwater bryozoans (see what bryozoans are on wikipedia). We will focus on the spined statoblasts produced by the lovely Cristatella mucedo.

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According to the Victorian naturalist George Allman , whose classic figure of Cristatella appears above, “a more interesting and beautiful animal than […] Cristatella mucedo can scarcely be imagined” (Allman 1856), an opinion that at least one of us adheres to – guess who! (ed. note: Beth is world-leading expert on Bryozoan, see her profile at the Natural History Museum).

Allman’s figure depicts a colony of Cristatella with various tentacular crowns (each about 1 mm) raised in filter feeding, the entire colony being drooped over and encircling aquatic vegetation. The figure also shows the spined statoblasts (also about 1 mm) in various developmental stages.

Statoblasts of Cristatella become attached to waterfowl (facilitated by their spines) and also, being buoyant, they initially float.

We aim to bolster our BESS project by examining relative levels of gene flow between Cristatella populations in sites associated with the Lough Erne and the Norfolk Broads systems, hypothesising that gene flow will be greater amongst sites in the more highly connected Lough Erne system.

The work is in collaboration with Hanna Hartikainen at ETH, Zurich.”

 

Pondweeds

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Pondweeds

The islands of Britain and Ireland have over 40 species or hybrids of pondweeds (genus Potamogeton). This diversity in pondweed is one of the highest in Europe with most European species being represented. Unfortunately local diversity and abundance of pondweeds have declined over the 20th Century, as a result of habitat destruction and pollution. The Upper Lough Erne region and The Broads are two areas of importance for the conservation of pondweed – but “what can we learn from these strongholds?” and “what measure could enhance their recovery nationally?” are questions we are trying to address part of the Lake BESS project. (Photo by Ambroise Baker: P. polygonifolius in full bloom).

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8th Shallow Lakes Conference

This conference will take place October 12 – 17, 2014 in Antalya, Turkey and anyone with an interest in shallow lake ecosystems is invited to take part. There will be several famous researchers presenting their work, such as John Smol from Queen’s Univerity (Canada) and Luc De Meester from the Univerity of Leuven (Belgium), poster sessions and field excursions.

A short film about the management of biodiversity and water in the Broads.

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“In this short film I asked some of the people I work with about the management of biodiversity and water in Broadland. Their thoughts are set alongside some of the most beautiful photos of wildlife and wetland landscapes. We hope you enjoy it” Andrea Kelly Senior Ecologist at the Broads Authority

BESS Science meeting

Lake BESS scientists Nigel Willby and Ambroise Baker attended the BESS Science meeting on April 1st and 2nd in York. It was extremely interesting to hear about the progress of other projects part of the same research programme about Biodiversity, Ecosystem Services and Sustainablility.

We presented our research plans and highlighted the complex relationship between drivers of change and ecosystem services with this slide:

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The BESS programme addresses a broad range of services but we were impressed by the prominent role of cultural ecosystem services across projects, research areas and ecosystem types. Their quantification and mapping remains an arduous task and much work is on the way.

We also heard sobering thoughts about alternative regimes and tipping points in ecosystems by Adrian Newton from the University of Bournemouth. It will be important to better understand how such rapid and unpredictable changes in ecosystems can have an impact on service delivery over time.

Zebra mussel from Kilturk Lough

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Zebra mussel from Kilturk Lough

But is it a zebra or is it a butterfly? Project partner Jorge Salgado suggests: “It’s a unique butterfly species with mussel wings that only inhabits the the Upper Lough Erne.”

Zebra mussel is an invasive mussel that was first observed in Ireland in 1997 but is now becoming widespread. It can use native mussel shells as substrate, as shown on this photograph taken by Jorge Salgado.

You can read about Zebra mussel in Northern Ireland in a this Zebra Mussel Management Strategy report.

Lake BESS new photographs

The Lake BESS website is being improved thanks to pictures taken by Ben Goldsmith and Tom Davidson (see Photo Credits) taken in Upper Lough Erne region and The Broads. We now have five stunning header pictures of lake landscapes and luxuriant aquatic vegetation.

These inspirational pictures were chosen to provoke thoughts on biodiversity, connectivity, ecosystem services and sustainability.

You will also note the exceptional aerial photographs of The Broads by Mike Page – visit his website for an aerial experience!

Speaking about pictures, we would like to set up a platform of exchange for anyone interested or concerned by the Upper Lough Erne region and The Broads. In particular, we plan to provide a space where to discuss photographs, whether old or recent, and life and activities around lakes in Upper Lough Erne region and The Broads.

So, watch this place and do not hesitate to get in touch if you have any picture to share or suggestion.

LakeBESS start-up

Lakes are inspirational places for people enjoying outdoor activities and they are cherished by local communities and holiday-makers alike. However, lake ecosystems are threatened by environmental change and loss of biodiversity that can have cascading and catastrophic effects.

The LakeBESS project, run from the Environmental Change Research Centre (ECRC) at UCL, is focussed on two lake districts, the Broads in East Anglia and the Upper Lough Erne district in Northern Ireland.

debarcadaireWe are looking into how biodiversity regulates ecological balance within lakes and would like to assess the consequences of biodiversity loss for the provision of ecosystem services. Ecosystem services from lakes are extremely diverse: recreation, tourism, water purification, flood prevention, provision of fish for anglers and fisheries and other supporting services such as carbon storage for climate mitigation.

Because of this variety, changes in lake ecological functioning may affect the different services in different ways, rendering best practices for restoration and management difficult to establish.

One aspect we are particularly interested to develop in LakeBESS is the importance of ecological connectivity between lakes for their biodiversity. Connectivity may be a major factor determining lake ecosystem resilience because it counter-balances the negative effect of local extinction by increasing species re-colonisation.

Another aspect of interest is the consequences of biological invasions by organisms such as zebra mussel and Canadian pondweed.

We have just started this project as part of the Biodiveristy, Ecosystem Services and Sustainablility (BESS) research programme funded by the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

Our team is composed of Carl Sayer, Helen Bennion, Jorge Salgado and Ambroise Baker at UCL, Tom Davidson at the University of Aarhus (Denmark), Beth Okamura at the Natural History Museum and Nigel Willby at Stirling University. We are looking forward to a field campaign this summer and to presenting the result of our work to the numerous stakeholders in both lake districts.

We also would love to hear your take on how changes in lakes, or in a particular lake, can affect people’s lives.