Name: Paul B.L. George
Project title: Functional roles of belowground biodiversity on a national-scale: the importance of soil microbes and invertebrates across Wales
Where based: Bangor University/CEH Bangor
Growing up in Victoria, Canada, I was lucky to be surrounded by a huge diversity of natural life. In particular, I have always enjoyed observing and studying invertebrates. This led me to pursue a degree in biology at Dalhousie University, where I studied how various agricultural practices affected mesofauna community structure, achieving First Class Honours. I then completed my MSc. at the University of Western Ontario, where I looked at the effects of wood ash amendment on nematode communities in forestry plantations. I then came across this STARS project, which gave me an incredible opportunity to follow my academic interests and experience a different scientific culture.
My project will look at the importance of belowground biodiversity in providing ecosystem services. Healthy soils are needed to meet our civilisation’s increasing demands for the production of food and natural materials. However, current practices, for example agricultural intensification, often lead to a swift degradation of the soil, and therefore a need to convert more natural systems to agricultural production. Furthermore, it is still unclear how changes in soil biodiversity influence ecosystem services, like food production. Now, governments are aware that more careful planning is needed to ensure long-term production. My research is being undertaken as part of the Glastir Monitoring and Evaluation Programme (GMEP); this project looks at the continuing effects of the Welsh Government’s latest agri-environment scheme, Glastir. The aim of my research is to identify groups of soil biota that positive influence ecosystem services so that their preservation can be incorporated into best practices for agriculture.