Research in this area focusses on the two main plant-animal interactions, herbivory and pollination.
Thanks to a recent grant award from the Leverhulme Trust, Dr Mick Hanley and project post-doc Dr Lucille Chretien (in collaboration with Professor Nicole van Dam, iDiv, Leipzig), are working to corroborate long-established biogeographic theories predicting patterns of plant defence expression at the seedling stage. Specifically, they are seeking to establish whether the severity of herbivore attack declines with increasing latitude and altitude, and that as a result, seedling defence shows a concomitant decline. This work builds on over 25 years of work on seedling-herbivore interactions by Hanley and co-workers that shows selective seedling herbivory (principally by slugs and snails) is a major environmental filter for establishing plant species and communities (see Hanley et al 2018).
Several members of our group work on various aspects of plant-pollinator Interactions. Dr Pete Cotton is collaborating with colleagues worldwide to use bird–plant interactions as a model system to understand how biotic interactions vary across macroecological scales. In the most recent publication, Maruyama et al. (2018) used 74 plant–hummingbird interaction networks across the Americas to show that hummingbird functional diversity was a strong predictor of niche partitioning in plant–hummingbird networks. This is important because the loss of pollinator functional diversity is likely therefore to alter pollination service provision to the plants visited by particular groups of hummingbirds. Another key area of research has been to determine how shifts in arable land-use practice affect pollinator assemblages. In work led by Professor Camille Parmesan (now based at CNRS Moulis, France), recently graduated PhD student Nick Berkley showed how bee, hoverfly, and butterfly distributions varied markedly in-and-around bioenergy crops such as willow and miscanthus (see Berkley et al 2018). In collaboration with project co-supervisors Dr Mick Hanley and Dr Rich Boden, Nick is currently looking at how pollinator network stability varies according to different bioenergy cropping patterns.
Hanley ME, Shannon RWR, Lemoine DG, Sandey B, Newland PL, Poppy GM (2018) Riding on the wind: volatile compounds dictate selection of grassland seedlings by snails. Annals of Botany 122: 1075–1083.
Berkley NAJ, Hanley ME, Boden R, Owen RS, Holmes JH, Critchley RD, Carroll K, Sawyer DGM, Parmesan C (2018) Influence of bioenergy crops on pollinator activity varies with crop type and distance. GCB Bioenergy 10: 960-971.
Maruyama PK,….(incl Cotton PA), et al. (2018) Functional diversity mediates macroecological variation in plant-hummingbird interaction networks. Global Ecology & Biogeography 27: 1186-1199.
Mick Hanley PI Geographical Patterns in Seedling Defence and Herbivore Interactions. The Leverhulme Trust £171,046. March 2019-Feb 2022.