Ecological and Environmental Change Research Group
MSc project

Management-driven evolution

John-Arvid Grytnes, Vigdis Vandvik

A small rocky knoll in burning heathland
Tessa Bargmann

Main content

Using heathlands as a case study for investigating management-driven trait evolution in species in cultural landscapes

Researchers at EECRG have shown that Calluna vulgaris (Røsslyng) seeds that are found in cultural landscapes germinate better when exposed to fire. This is probably a result of the long historical burning of the heathlands that advantages those seeds that are able to “feel” when the landscape opens up due to fire, allowing them to develop under less competitive conditions. That humans can affect species traits like this has been demonstrated in other systems as well (e.g. maturity age of cod), but it has been little studied in cultural landscapes. We are interested in using the heathlands as a case study for investigating management-driven trait evolution in cultural landscapes. Heathlands have been used extensively for a long time in Europe and comprise an ideal study system for studying how different species and species traits have been affected by human use. There are many potential species and traits to study in this context, and this will be decided in collaboration with the student.

We seek MSc students who would be interested in, for example, (i) investigating smoke responses in cultural landscape and natural habitat populations of Calluna vulgaris or other species with similar ecology, (ii) studies of genetic variability in the cultural landscape vs. natural habitat populations of these species, and (iii) determination of the historic duration of the cultural influence in selected research localities linked to these species.

These MSc studies will be linked to ongoing research collaboration and projects focusing on heathland conservation, management and ecology.


Suggested reading:

Vandvik, V., Töpper, J. P., Cook, Z., Daws, M.I., Heegaard, E., Måren, I.E. & Velle, L.G. 2014. Management-driven evolution in a domesticated ecosystem. Biology Letters 10: 20131082. 10.1098/rsbl.2013.1082

Måren I.E., Janovský Z., Spindelböck J.P., Daws M.I., Kaland P.E. & Vandvik V. 2010. Prescribed burning of northern heathlands: Calluna vulgaris and germination cues. Plant Ecology 207: 245–256. DOI 10.1007/s11258-009-9669-1