Skip to main content

Trinity College Dublin, The University of Dublin

Trinity Menu Trinity Search



Dr. Ian Donohue
Associate Professor, Zoology

Biography

I am a community ecologist and like to use experimental approaches to answer questions about the factors that regulate the structure, stability and functioning of biological networks. The overarching aim of my research is to further our understanding of how key elements of global change alter the functioning and stability of ecosystems.

An important goal of my research is to bridge the gaps between theoretical, empirical and applied ecology. I generally focus on ecological patterns and processes at the level of the community and whole ecosystems. My approach to research is inter-disciplinary, combining theory, experimental and observational work in mesocosms and in the field, and laboratory experiments using multitrophic microbial communities.

Publications and Further Research Outputs

Peer-Reviewed Publications

Kéfi, S., Dominguez-Garcia, V., Donohue, I., Fontaine, C. Thébault, E. & Dakos, V. , Advancing our understanding of ecological stability, Ecology Letters, 22, 2019, p1349 - 1356 Journal Article, 2019 DOI

Yang, Q., Fowler, M.S., Jackson, A.L. & Donohue, I., The predictability of ecological stability in a noisy world, Nature Ecology & Evolution, 3, 2019, p251 - 259 Journal Article, 2019 URL DOI

Pimm, S.L., Donohue, I., Montoya, J.M. & Loreau, M., Measuring resilience is essential to understand it, Nature Sustainability, 2, 2019, p895 - 897 Journal Article, 2019 DOI URL

Donohue, I., Hillebrand, H., Montoya, J.M.; Petchey, O.L., Pimm, S.L., Fowler, M.S., Healy, K., Jackson, A.L., Lurgi, M., McClean, D., O'Connor, N.E., O'Gorman, E.J. & Yang, Q., Navigating the complexity of ecological stability, Ecology Letters, 19, 2016, p1072 - 1085 Journal Article, 2016 DOI

Mrowicki, R.J., O'Connor, N.E. & Donohue, I., Temporal variability of a single population can determine the vulnerability of communities to perturbations, Journal of Ecology, 104, 2016, p887 - 897 Journal Article, 2016 DOI

Donohue, I., Petchey, O.L., Kéfi, S., Génin, A., Jackson, A.L., Yang, Q. & O'Connor, N.E., Loss of predator species, not intermediate consumers, triggers rapid and dramatic extinction cascades, Global Change Biology, 23, 2017, p2962 - 2972 Journal Article, 2017 DOI URL

Montoya, J. M., Donohue, I. & Pimm, S.L., Planetary boundaries for biodiversity: implausible science, pernicious policies, Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 33, 2018, p71 - 73 Journal Article, 2018 DOI

Kordas, R.L., Donohue, I. & Harley, C.D.G., Herbivory enables marine communities to resist warming, Science Advances, 3, 2017, pe1701349 Journal Article, 2017 DOI

Abila et al., Oil extraction imperils Africa's Great Lakes, Science, 354, 2016, p561-562 Journal Article, 2016 DOI

McClean, D., McNally, L., Salzberg, L.L., Devine, K.M., Brown, S.P. & Donohue, I., Single gene locus changes perturb complex microbial communities as much as apex predator loss, Nature Communications, 6, 2015, 8235 Journal Article, 2015 DOI

Penk, M., Irvine, K. & Donohue, I., Ecosystem-level effects of a globally-spreading invertebrate invader are not moderated by a functionally similar native, Journal of Animal Ecology, 84, 2015, p1628-1636 Journal Article, 2015 DOI

Montoya, J. M., Donohue, I. & Pimm, S.L., Why a planetary boundary, if it is not planetary, and the boundary is undefined?, Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 33, 2018, p234 Journal Article, 2018

Penk, M.R., Jeschke, J.M., Minchin, D. & Donohue, I., Warming can enhance invasion success through asymmetries in energetic performance, Journal of Animal Ecology, 85, 2016, p419 - 426 Journal Article, 2016 DOI

Jackson, M.C., Grey, J., Miller, K., Britton, J.R. & Donohue, I., Dietary niche constriction when invaders meet natives: evidence from freshwater decapods, Journal of Animal Ecology, 85, 2016, p1098-1107 Journal Article, 2016 DOI

Donohue, I., Petchey, O.L., Montoya, J.M., Jackson, A.L., McNally, L., Viana, M., Healy, K., Lurgi, M., O'Connor, N.E. & Emmerson, M.C., On the dimensionality of ecological stability, Ecology Letters, 16, (4), 2013, p421-429- Journal Article, 2013 DOI

Penk, M., Saul, W.-C., Dick, J., Donohue, I., Alexander, M., Linzmaier, S. & Jeschke, J., A trophic interaction framework for identifying the invasive capacity of novel organisms, Methods in Ecology and Evolution§, 8, 2017, p1786-1794 Journal Article, 2017 DOI

O'Connor, N.E. & Donohue, I. , Environmental context determines multi-trophic effects of consumer species loss, Global Change Biology, 19, 2013, p431-440 Journal Article, 2013 DOI

O'Connor, N.E., Bracken, M.E.S., Crowe, T.P. & Donohue, I., Nutrient enrichment alters the consequences of species loss, Journal of Ecology, 103, 2015, p862-870 Journal Article, 2015 DOI

Healy, K. Finlay, S., Guillerme, T., Kane, A., Kelly, S.B.A., McClean, D., Kelly, D.J., Donohue, I., Jackson, A.L. & Cooper, N., Ecology and mode-of-life explain lifespan variation in birds and mammals, Proceedings of the Royal Society Series B, 281, (1784), 2014, p20140298 Journal Article, 2014 DOI

Donohue I, Jackson AL, Pusch MT, Irvine K, Nutrient enrichment homogenizes lake benthic assemblages at local and regional scales., Ecology, 90, (12), 2009, p3470-7 Journal Article, 2009 DOI

Evtimova, VV & Donohue, I, Quantifying ecological responses to amplified water level fluctuations in standing waters: an experimental approach, Journal of Applied Ecology, 51, 2014, p1282-1291 Journal Article, 2014 DOI

McClean, D., Friman, V-P., Finn, A., Salzberg, L.I. & Donohue, I., Coping with multiple enemies: pairwise interactions do not predict evolutionary change in complex multitrophic communities, Oikos, 128, 2019, p1588 - 1599 Journal Article, 2019 DOI

Evtimova, V.V. & Donohue, I., Water level fluctuations regulate the structure and functioning of natural lakes, Freshwater Biology, 61, 2016, p251 - 254 Journal Article, 2016 DOI

García-Molinos, J. & Donohue, I., Downscaling the non-stationary effect of climate forcing on local-scale dynamics: The importance of environmental filters, Climatic Change, 124, 2014, p333 - 346 Journal Article, 2014 DOI

Penk, M., Donohue, I., Récoules, V. & Irvine, K. , Elevated temperatures interact with habitat quality to undermine survival of ectotherms in climatic refugia, Diversity and Distributions, 21, 2015, p200-210 Journal Article, 2015 DOI

O'Connor, N.E., Emmerson, M.C., Crowe, T.P. & Donohue, I., Distinguishing between direct and indirect effects of predators in complex ecosystems, Journal of Animal Ecology, 82, 2013, p438-448 Journal Article, 2013 DOI

García Molinos, J. & Donohue, I. , Interactions among temporal patterns determine the effects of multiple stressors, Ecological Applications, 20, 2010, p1794-1800 Journal Article, 2010 DOI

Donohue, I., Leira, M., Hobbs, W., León-vintró, L. O'Reilly, J. and Irvine, K. , Rapid ecosystem recovery from diffuse pollution after the Great Irish Famine, Ecological Applications, 20, 2010, p1733 - 1743 Journal Article, 2010 DOI

Donohue, I., Jackson, A.L., Pusch, M.T. & Irvine, K., Nutrient enrichment homogenizes lake benthic assemblages at local and regional scales, Ecology, 90, 2009, p3470 - 3477 Journal Article, 2009 DOI

García Molinos, J. & Donohue, I., Temporal variability within disturbance events regulates their effects on ecosystems, Oecologia, 166, 2011, p795 - 806 Journal Article, 2011 DOI

Jackson, M.C., Donohue, I., Jackson, A.L., Britton, J.R., Harper, D.M. & Grey, J., Population-level metrics of trophic structure based on stable isotopes and their application to invasion ecology, PLOS ONE, 7, 2012, pe31757 Journal Article, 2012 DOI

Donohue, I. & Garcia-Molinos, J., Impacts of increased sediment loads on the ecology of lakes, Biological Reviews, 84, 2009, p517 - 531 Journal Article, 2009 DOI

O'Connor, N.E., Donohue, I., Crowe, T.P. & Emmerson, M.C., Importance of consumers on exposed and sheltered rocky shores, Marine Ecology Progress Series, 443, 2011, p65 - 75 Journal Article, 2011 DOI

Donohue, I., Donohue, L.A., Ní Ainín, B. & Irvine, K., Assessment of eutrophication pressure on lakes using littoral invertebrates, Hydrobiologia, 633, 2009, p105 - 122 Journal Article, 2009 DOI

Garcia Molinos, J. & Donohue, I., Differential contribution of concentration and exposure time to sediment dose effects on stream biota, Journal of the North American Benthological Society, 28, 2009, p110 - 121 Journal Article, 2009 DOI

O'Toole, C., Donohue, I., Moe, J. & Irvine, K., Nutrient optima and tolerances of benthic invertebrates, the effects of taxonomic resolution and testing of selected metrics in lakes using an extensive European data base, Aquatic Ecology, 42, 2008, p277 - 291 Journal Article, 2008 DOI

García-Molinos, J., Viana, M., Brennan, M. & Donohue, I., Importance of long-term cycles for predicting water level dynamics in natural lakes, PLoS One, 10, 2015, e0119253 Journal Article, 2015 DOI

Donohue, I., Irvine, K, Quantifying variability within water samples: The need for adequate subsampling, Water Research, 42, 2008, p476 - 482 Journal Article, 2008 DOI

Solimini, A.G., Free, G., Donohue, I., Irvine, K., Pusch, M., Rossaro, B., Sandin, L. & Cardoso, A-C. , Using benthic macroinvertebrates to assess ecological status of lakes: current knowledge and way forward to support WFD implementation, Report EUR 22347 for the European Commission, Directorate-General Joint Research Centre, Institute for Environment and Sustainability, Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, Luxembourg, 2006 Report, 2006

McCarthy, V., Donohue, I. & Irvine, K., Field evidence for stoichiometric relationships between zooplankton and N and P availability in a shallow calcareous lake, Freshwater Biology, 51, 2006, p1589 - 1604 Journal Article, 2006 DOI

Styles, D., Donohue, I., Coxon, C.E. & Irvine, K., Linking soil phosphorus to water quality in the west of Ireland through the analysis of moist soil samples, Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment , 112, 2006, p300 - 312 Journal Article, 2006 DOI

Donohue, I., McGarrigle, M. & Mills, P., Linking catchment characteristics and water chemistry with the ecological status of Irish rivers, Water Research, 40, 2006, p91 - 98 Journal Article, 2006 DOI

Donohue, I., Styles, D., Coxon, C.E., & Irvine, K. , Importance of spatial and temporal patterns for assessment of risk of diffuse nutrient emissions to surface waters, Journal of Hydrology, 304, 2005, p183 - 192 Journal Article, 2005 DOI

Venohr, M., Donohue, I., Fogelberg, S., Arheimer, B., Irvine, K. & Behrendt, H., Nitrogen retention in a river system and the effects of river morphology and lakes, Water Science and Technology, 51, 2005, p19 - 29 Journal Article, 2005

O'Reilly, J.O., León Vintró, L. , Mitchell, P.I., Donohue, I., Leira, M., Hobbs W. and Irvine, K., 210Pb-dating of a lake sediment core from Lough Carra (Co. Mayo, western Ireland): use of paleolimnological data for chronology validation below the, Journal of Environmental Radioactivity , 102, 2011, p495 - 499 Journal Article, 2011 DOI

McCarthy, V., Donohue, I. & Irvine, K., Mechanisms influencing zooplankton community structure in a shallow marl lake, Verhandlungen Internationale Vereinigung Limnologie, 29, 2005, p401 - 408 Journal Article, 2005

Hobbs, W., Irvine, K. & Donohue, I., Using sediments to assess the resistance of a calcareous lake to diffuse nutrient loading, Archiv für Hydrobiologie, 164, 2005, p109 - 125 Journal Article, 2005 DOI

Donohue, I. & Irvine, K., Seasonal patterns of sediment loading and benthic invertebrate community dynamics in Lake Tanganyika, Africa, Freshwater Biology, 49, 2004, p320 - 331 Journal Article, 2004

Donohue, I. & Irvine, K., Size-specific effects of increased sediment loads on gastropod communities in Lake Tanganyika, Africa, Hydrobiologia, 522, 2004, p337 - 342 Journal Article, 2004

Donohue, I., Duck, R.W. & Irvine, K., Land use, sediment loads and dispersal pathways from two catchments at the southern end of Lake Tanganyika, Africa: implications for lake management, Environmental Geology, 44, 2003, p448 - 455 Journal Article, 2003 DOI

Donohue, I., Verheyen, E. & Irvine, K., In-situ experiments on the effects of increased sediment loads on littoral rocky shore communities in Lake Tanganyika, East Africa, Freshwater Biology, 48, 2003, p1603 - 1616 Journal Article, 2003

Donohue, I. & Irvine, K., Effects of sediment particle size composition on survivorship of benthic invertebrates from Lake Tanganyika, Africa, Archiv für Hydrobiologie, 157, 2003, p131 - 144 Journal Article, 2003 DOI

Donohue, I., Styles, D., Coxon, C. & Irvine, K., Importance of spatial and temporal patterns for assessment of risk of diffuse nutrient emissions to surface waters, Journal of Hydrology, 304, (1-4), 2005, p183 - 192 Journal Article, 2005

Penk, M.R., Donohue, I. & Irvine, K. , Temporally variable niche overlap and competitive potential of an introduced and a native mysid shrimp, Hydrobiologia, 823, 2018, p109 - 119 Journal Article, 2018 DOI

Penk, M.R., Donohue, I., Minchin, D. & Irvine, K., Life history timing, but not body size, of Mysis salemaai (Crustacea: Mysida) conserved across a trophic gradient at its southern distribution, Hydrobiologia, 775, 2016, p83-95 Journal Article, 2016 DOI

Wynne, C., Tierney, D., & Donohue, I., Predicting lake alkalinity and depth for classifying Irish lakes under the EU Water Framework Directive typology, Biology and Environment, 116B, 2016, p179-189 Journal Article, 2016 DOI

White, L.J., Donohue, I., Emmerson, M.C. & O'Connor, N. E., Combined effects of warming and nutrients on marine communities are moderated by predators and vary across functional groups, Global Change Biology, 24, 2018, 5853 - 5866 Journal Article, 2018 DOI

Williams, M.A., Donohue, I., Picard, J., O'Keefe, F. and Holland, C.V., Infection with behaviour-manipulating parasites enhances bioturbation by key aquatic detritivores, Parasitology, 146, (12), 2019, p1528 - 1531 Journal Article, 2019 DOI

Coscieme, L., Mortensen, L.F., Anderson, S., Ward, J., Donohue, I. & Sutton, P.C. , Going beyond Gross Domestic Product as an indicator to bring coherence to the Sustainable Development Goals, Journal of Cleaner Production, 248, 2020, p119232 Journal Article, 2020 DOI

Shoemaker, L.G., Sullivan, L.L., Donohue, I., Cabral, J.S., Williams, R.J., Mayfield, M.M., Chase, J.M., Chu, C., Harpole, W.S., Huth, A., HilleRisLambers, J., James, A.R.M., Kraft, N.J.B., May, F., Muthukrishnan, R., Satterlee, S., Taubert, F., Wang, X., Wiegand, T., Yang, Q. & Abbott, K.C., Integrating the underlying structure of stochasticity into community ecology, Ecology, 101, 2020, pe02922 Journal Article, 2020 DOI

Research Expertise

Projects

  • Title
    • Nature+Energy
  • Summary
    • Our partnership brings together world-leading researchers and the key players in the Irish wind energy sector to add significant value to green renewable energy and enhance its competitiveness through developing the template and tools needed to optimise land management and the delivery of natural capital co-benefits from onshore wind farms.
  • Funding Agency
    • SFI
  • Date From
    • September 2020
  • Date To
    • August 2024
  • Title
    • Understanding the effects of global change on ecological stability
  • Summary
    • Ecosystems worldwide are being increasingly affected by a multitude of components of human-induced global environmental change, including land-use change, climate change, habitat loss and nutrient enrichment of both land and water. This is causing species to go extinct at rates many thousands of times above background levels, undermining even further the capacity of biological communities to cope with, and recover from, disturbances (i.e. their stability). However, we know remarkably little about how these disturbances alter the many different components of ecological stability and less still about the stability of ecosystem functioning and services - respectively, the processes or jobs performed by ecosystems, many of which are utilised directly by humanity, and the goods and services we receive from ecosystems. This project will combine development of new theory, experimental work in the field and large-scale global analyses of ecosystems in collaboration with a global network of scientists, to further our knowledge of how ecosystems respond to and recover from disturbances. By disturbing systems in ways that mimic global change (e.g. by increasing temperature to simulate predicted warming), we can tease apart what makes ecosystems stable or why some may be more suscpetible to collapse, as well as when ecosystems are able to produce the services that humanity relies on. Only by combining different approaches across scales from microorganisms to global systems, and drawing on knowledge of experts from a range of fields, can we begin to gain a more complete understanding of what makes ecosystems stable, and ultimately what might drive them to collapse in our uncertain but increasingly threatened world.
  • Funding Agency
    • Irish Research Council
  • Date From
    • October 2017
  • Date To
    • October 2021
  • Title
    • Distil Sustainability Indicators (DISTINCT)
  • Summary
    • In September 2015 the Member States of the United Nations agreed upon Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that will drive the global political agenda to 2030. The 17 Goals go from "Eradicate Poverty" to "Gender Equality" and "Climate Action". Each Goal splits up into several Targets, and progresses towards each Target will be monitored by a set of indicators. At the global level, in total, 230 Indicators will be used to assess the level of achievement of 169 Targets within 15 years. In the EU, a list of approximately 100 indicators will be identified to monitor EU progress towards SDGs. And at country level, separate indicators are also in some cases being identified. This large amount of data will be difficult to interpret, with the risk that the SDGs will provide diluted guidance at best. The aim of DISTINCT (DIstill SusTainability INdiCaTors) is to perform statistically advanced analyses that will evaluate the general level of sustainability of the countries of the world, with a special focus on Europe. The project has four main objectives: 1. Enhance feasibility of the SDGs: screen data availability and assess the accuracy of the methodologies used to calculate the different indicators. 2. Maximize information content of the SDGs: detect the minimum set of meaningful indicators that distil the maximum amount of information. 3. Produce options and guidelines for policymaking: evaluate and list combinations of policy options that can achieve multiple goals simultaneously. 4. Generate impact and awareness: through an effective communication plan for a general audience and link effectively to solid global network of top-level experts. DISTINCT will have important policy and measuring impacts, highlighting the leading role of the EU in the UN agenda for Sustainable Development. The fellow will be supervised by and collaborate with the Partnerships and Networks Programme which leads the SDG work of the European Environment Agency (EEA), and world leaders in Sustainability Science.
  • Funding Agency
    • EU-H2020 Marie Sklodowska-Curie and Irish Research Council
  • Date From
    • October 2017
  • Date To
    • December 2020
  • Title
    • The implications of shifting elemental ratios for the stability of ecosystems
  • Summary
    • Human actions are altering the relative availability of elements in ecosystems throughout the globe. While it is known that changes in nutrient availability can alter ecological processes, and that the relative availability of different nutrients (i.e. stoichiometry) determines ecosystem productivity, little is known about how differential shifts in relative nutrient availability alters the stability of biological communities. Recent research led by the research team has demonstrated that variability in traits within even a single species can determine the structure and stability of entire ecosystems. This is because the effects of trait-based shifts in interactions between species can propagate throughout entire ecological networks, altering the capacity of ecosystems to resist and recover from disturbances. There is mounting evidence that the degree of elemental homeostasis, the ability of organisms to maintain constant elemental composition regardless of external variations, varies both within and among species. This indicates that variation in this key biological trait has the potential to moderate the stability of whole ecosystems. Despite a rich literature on how consumer nutrient content changes as a function of food stoichiometry, the role of stoichiometry in important ecological phenomena such as population stability remains very poorly understood. The aim of this project is to evaluate how the stability of consumer species is (1) affected by the stoichiometry of their food and (2) by the extent of internal stoichiometric homeostasis. This study will advance our understanding of how human-induced shifts in nutrient ratios impact the stability of ecosystems, with important implications for environmental management.
  • Funding Agency
    • Irish Research Council
  • Date From
    • October 2016
  • Date To
    • September 2019
  • Title
    • Development of an ecohydrology framework for setting environmental flow standards for Irish rivers
  • Summary
    • Environmental flows (EFlows) are a component of hydromorphology assessed under the WFD as supporting elements of riverine ecological status. They represent the timing, quantity and quality of water flows required to sustain the functioning and integrity of freshwater ecosystems and the ecosystem services they provide. Analysis of long-term flow records is required to define flow regimes, which are influenced by river typology and surface/sub-surface water pathways. The overarching goal of this project is to review state of the art EFlow methodology to identify alternatives most suited to the Irish context and for developing flow standards. Alternative approaches for estimating EFlows will be applied to hydrometric flow data from a number of rivers in contrasting catchments representing different water pathway configurations. Feedback from a stakeholder workshop will be used to identify 1-2 optimal approaches to apply to a broader array of river types and catchments. The availability of ecological and water chemistry data will be assessed, and, where possible, related to flow regime to develop relationships for setting flow standards. Data gaps and needs will be identified. Final recommendations will identify an integrated landscape framework for setting EFlow standards that maintain ecological status and ecosystem service provision of Irish rivers.
  • Funding Agency
    • EPA
  • Date From
    • January 2015
  • Date To
    • October 2015
  • Title
    • Investigations into the causes, impacts and measures to deal with algal blooms in Vartry Reservoir
  • Funding Agency
    • EPA
  • Date From
    • 2015
  • Date To
    • 2018
  • Title
    • Development and Application of a Novel Systemic Approach to Measuring Resilience in Ecosystems and Economies
  • Summary
    • Ecosystems and economies can both be viewed as networks that function by using external sources of energy and matter, perform work, create relationships among their elements (i.e. biota and human beings), and produce goods and services as output. This systemic view allows the identification and measure of emergent properties that are common in both ecosystems and economies, such as stability and resilience. Resilience is the capacity of a system to recover from disturbance without collapsing into a qualitatively different state. This is a crucial property in the present world, where increasing population, resource depletion and human impacts on the environment are threatening the ecological and economic sustainability of our development model. Our future well-being depends on the resilience of both our economic systems and the biosphere. In face of rapidly growing global challenges, development of a common conceptual framework is needed in order to comprehend which actions are needed to adapt our behaviours, our production processes, the metabolism of our economic systems and how we manage the environment. Howewver, at present, different indicators derive from sciences that have developed independently and do not combine easily. This is an obstacle that needs to be overcome. To date, all attempts to measure resilience and sustainability proposed have so far been formulated as an aggregation of multiple different elements. Consequently, social, ecological and economic elements have consistently been considered as interchangeable; bad or low values of some indicators are compensated by very good or high values of other indicators. However, social, environmental and economic resilience are not substitutable elements and this approach is limiting our ability to develop a higher-level synthetic overview of sustainability. By developing novel transdisciplinary indicators, this project will develop and test the utility and applicability of a systemic resilience measure that will: (1) consider the social, ecological and economic aspects as non-substitutable (2) be highly communicable to decision makers
  • Funding Agency
    • Irish Research Council
  • Date From
    • September 2014
  • Date To
    • August 2016
  • Title
    • The impact of parasites on ecosystem functioning and stability
  • Summary
    • Parasites are ubiquitous in virtually every ecosystem worldwide. Their impact upon host fitness at the individual and, to a lesser extent, population level is now well established. However, the broader scale implications of parasites at the community and ecosystem level have yet to be elucidated due to the complex nature of parasite quantification and identification, the complexity of natural systems, and often limited scale of analysis. It has been suggested that parasites enhance ecosystem stability and contribute to ecosystem function, though there is a dearth of empirical evidence to support these hypotheses. As global climate changes, the role of parasites and their impact on host communities and ecosystems may shift. In order to enable the development of management strategies and improve ecological predictions, a thorough understanding of the relationship between parasites and their hosts at the ecosystem level is urgently required. We will utilize both field and laboratory-based approaches to understand an aquatic host-parasite relationship. This will include the acanthocephalan parasite Pomphorhynchus laevis, its detritivore intermediate host Gammarus pulex, and its definitive (final) host, the minnow, Phoxinus phoxinus. Initially, small-scale laboratory experiments will be used to determine the effects of P. laevis on G. pulex in terms of host behaviour, respiration, metabolism, nutrient composition, and feeding. A larger mesocosm (controlled aquatic environment) study will be conducted to quantify the impact of P. laevis parasitism on ecosystem function and stability utilising both intermediate and definitive hosts. Further mesocosm studies will test the impact of elevated temperature on the host-parasite relationship. Field studies will be conducted in Irish lakes to determine the impact of parasite prevalence on ecosystem function and stability in varied ecosystems. By integrating studies on multiple scales and focusing on ecologically important parasites and hosts, the project will make important headway in understanding the role of parasites in ecosystems.
  • Funding Agency
    • Irish Research Council
  • Date From
    • September 2014
  • Date To
    • August 2018
  • Title
    • Facing multiple challenges at range margins: influence of climate change, nutrient enrichment and an introduced competitor on the glacial relict, Mysis salemaai
  • Summary
    • Anthropogenic climate change is arguably the most important threat to global biodiversity, and its effects are expected to escalate. However, mechanisms of impact operating at local scales remain poorly understood, likely because of the confounding and interacting effects of other stressors. The aim of this study is to investigate biological effects of multiple stressors using the relict mysid crustacean Mysis salemaai at its biogeographical front as a model system. With a changing climate, organisms are pushed gradually toward the boundary of their adaptive capacities, increasing their vulnerability to extinction. Local effects of climate change may depend strongly on interactive effects of other physico-chemical and biotic pressures and, importantly, on the spatio-temporal attributes of such interactions, rather than on temperature alone. Understanding these effects is necessary for predicting future distribution patterns, mitigating threats and prioritising conservation measures to preserve global biodiversity and, by extension, the range of ecosystem processes sustaining the biosphere.
  • Funding Agency
    • Irish Research Council
  • Date From
    • September 2014
  • Date To
    • September 2015
  • Title
    • Integrating hydromorphology into typology to improve risk assessment of Irish lakes
  • Summary
    • A critical component of large-scale lake assessment frameworks is a typology that minimises within-group variation in reference condition and response to pressures. The Water Framework Directive (WFD) requires integration of hydromorphology into lake assessment; however lake typologies that include key elements of hydrologic regime and basin morphology remain elusive. The typology for Irish lakes includes basin depth and surface area but doesn't fully capture the range of hydromorphology elements necessary for risk assessments for individual lakes. There is a critical need for typology expansion because hydromorphology elements are related to fundamental lake properties such as thermal stratification, water residence time, interactions between littoral and pelagic zones, and water budgets. These properties in turn directly influence nutrient cycling, biodiversity, and biogeochemical processes and consequently the sensitivity to pressures and resilience of lake ecosystems to disturbance. This project aims to develop a lake typology for Irish lakes that incorporates the multi-scalar hydromorphology elements described above. To align Ireland with other EU efforts, we will also test alternative typologies including the UK model based on lake ontogeny proposed by Rowan (2010) and other EU schemes such as Dahl et al. (2007).
  • Funding Agency
    • EPA Ireland
  • Date From
    • January 2012
  • Date To
    • August 2014
  • Title
    • The multidimensionality of ecological stability and the factors that regulate it
  • Summary
    • Understanding the factors that determine the stability of biological communities has been a cornerstone of ecological research for decades with hugely important, yet understudied, implications for ecological theory, the conservation of biological diversity and the management of natural resources. Ecological stability is a complex and multifaceted concept, incorporating components such as variability, resistance, resilience, persistence and robustness. However, most ecological research has focussed on one or a few of those components analysed in isolation. Therefore, even though understanding the relationships among components of ecological stability is fundamental to support the optimal management of both biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, we know remarkably little about the nature of these relationships, the mechanisms underpinning them or whether there are any general features of these relationships that are common across different types of ecosystems. This project aims to address these important and pressing research needs by integrating both theoretical and experimental research in order to provide a significant and comprehensive advance in our understanding in this important field. In doing so, the project will give us a richer understanding of, and therefore improved ability to both manage and predict, the effects of human disturbances on ecosystems.
  • Funding Agency
    • Irish Research Council
  • Date From
    • October 2013
  • Date To
    • September 2017
  • Title
    • Development of targeted ecological modelling tools for lake management (DOLMANT)
  • Summary
    • The DOLMANT Project aims to develop lake management tools that integrate the biological, hydromorphological and physiochemical properties of lakes with lake and lake catchment variables to improve and maintain the ecological status of lakes. The project will develop lake management tools to assist in creating programmes of measures to meet EU legislation. It is funded through the European Union's European Regional Development Programme, INTERREG IVa.
  • Funding Agency
    • EU INTERREG
  • Date From
    • February 2011
  • Date To
    • September 2014
  • Title
    • Predicting ecological status of unmonitored lakes based on relationships between status, hydromorphological and landuse characteristics
  • Summary
    • Surface waters in Ireland, and indeed across much of the developed world, are at risk from the effects of anthropogenic activities. Industry, agriculture and domestic waste and wastewater contribute to the eutrophication, acidification and physical degradation of rivers and lakes. Critical to the management of such risks to surface waters is an increased understanding of and ability to predict the effects of anthropogenic disturbance on ecosystems and an acknowledgement of the importance of scale. Such an understanding is essential for improved management and also for robust assessment of risk. The goal of this project is to predict the likely ecological status of unmonitored lakes based on relationships between ecological status, catchment landuse, population densities and hydromorphological characteristics in monitored and unmonitored lakes through empirical modelling and risk-based probabilities of catchment hydrogeomorphological and landuse attributes. In order to achieve this, the project comprises three interlinked objectives: 1. Quantification of the relationships between hydrogeomorphological and landuse attributes and ecological status 2. Development of risk thresholds 3. Prediction of status in unmonitored lakes
  • Funding Agency
    • EPA Ireland
  • Date From
    • January 2012
  • Date To
    • June 2015
  • Title
    • Development of a tool for assessing general anthropogenic pressure on lakes using littoral invertebrates
  • Summary
    • Human transformation of the biosphere is causing an extinction crisis of unprecedented magnitude, driving an urgent need to understand the effects of human disturbance on fundamental characteristics of ecosystems. The spatiotemporal variability of biological communities comprises one such fundamental property that has hugely important, yet understudied, implications for both ecological theory and the management of natural resources. Biotic communities that are more variable have greater risk of species extinctions, are more susceptible to disturbance, and provide less reliable, and thus less economically valuable, ecosystem services. The aim of this project was to examine the effects of human disturbance on the variability of the biotic communities of lakes and to explore whether measures of biotic variability in space and/or time may provide a means to assess the extent of human pressures on lake ecosystems. Eight indices that have potential for detecting the impact of amplified water level fluctuations in lakes were developed and field tested. Results of the project demonstrate clearly that human disturbance can alter the variability of biotic communities of lakes in a variety of ways and across a range of scales.
  • Funding Agency
    • EPA Ireland
  • Date From
    • December 2009
  • Date To
    • September 2013
  • Title
    • Functional morphology of an endemic flock of caridean shrimp from Lake Tanganyika, East Africa
  • Summary
    • Lake Tanganyika in East Africa is the second oldest, second largest and one of the most biologically diverse lakes on Earth. Further, over 15 million people rely on the lake to supply the majority of their protein, with far greater numbers relying on the lake ecosystem during times of drought. The hugely important lake fisheries, in addition to the remarkably biologically diverse littoral fish community, rely on the macroinvertebrates of the lake, in particular on the shrimp community, as their primary source of food. Remarkably little is known, however, about the shrimp community of Lake Tanganyika, which comprises 14 endemic species belonging to 4 genera. This project comprised the following principal aims: . identification of the habitat preferences and life history patterns of the 14 species of shrimp found in Lake Tanganyika . elucidation of primary food sources of the shrimp, through the analysis of the stable isotope ratios δ13C and δ15N from muscle tissue, which will incorporate the investigation of feeding preferences at differing life stages . examination of the linkages between feeding and habitat preferences and genetic and morphological characteristics . quantification of predation rates, particularly by fish, on the shrimp community
  • Funding Agency
    • Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology (IRCSET)
  • Date From
    • October 2008
  • Date To
    • September 2011
  • Title
    • Effects of anthropogenically amplified water level fluctuations on lake littoral zones
  • Summary
    • At present, the primary threats to the integrity of both Irish and European water bodies (natural and artificial) comprise excessive nutrient loading and hydromorphological pressures. Important uses of freshwater which may impact on the hydromorphology of water bodies and lead to changes in water levels include activities such as drinking water supply, storage for hydropower generation, industrial processing or irrigation; navigation; recreation and construction of dams, dikes or embankments for flood protection or erosion control. In order to achieve the environmental objectives set by the WFD, we need to find ways to measure and assess disturbances by hydromorphological pressures. Remarkably little is known, however, of the impacts of amplified water level fluctuations on lake ecosystems. In lakes, these pressures are likely to be manifested most strongly in the littoral zone. The overall goal of the proposed work is to quantify experimentally impacts of hydromorphological pressures on assemblages and processes in the littoral zone of lakes, and their interactions with water chemistry and nutrient enrichment. The research will focus on the effects of amplified water level variation owing to water abstraction. In order to achieve this goal we will establish a number of ex- situ mesocosms that will allow us to investigate the importance of both the rate and the frequency of water level fluctuations; and study and quantify the interplay between changing water levels, trophic status and nutrient loading of lakes.
  • Funding Agency
    • Environmental Protection Agency
  • Title
    • Effects of water level fluctuations on the ecology of lakes
  • Summary
    • Global freshwater demand is increasing dramatically, with water withdrawal rates more than tripling in the last five decades. Consequently, alteration of water level regimes, particularly in the form of amplified water level fluctuations (WLF), is rapidly becoming one of the major disturbances of aquatic ecosystems globally. However, even though the impacts of WLF are likely to be strongest in littoral zones, little is known about their effects on the structure and functioning of littoral assemblages in standing water systems. Through a combination of mesocosm experiments and field surveys, this project found that water level fluctuations reduce considerably the productivity and biological diversity of lake littoral zones. Given that the problem is likely to be exacerbated by predicted increases in climatic variability and enhanced demand for water and hydropower, these findings have important implications for the conservation and management of global aquatic biodiversity.
  • Funding Agency
    • Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology (IRCSET)
  • Date From
    • October 2008
  • Date To
    • September 2011
  • Title
    • Improved Water Quality Data Analysis and Interpretation
  • Summary
    • Quantification of interactions and associations between physical characteristics of catchments, land use and management and the ecology and chemistry of surface waters at the catchment scale.
  • Funding Agency
    • EPA Ireland
  • Date From
    • December 2003
  • Date To
    • December 2005

Keywords

Anthropogenic Impact on ecosystems; Ecology; Ecology, Ecosystems; Environment & Society; Environmental Impacts, Interactions; Pollution; resilience; STABILITY; Water & Sanitation