Attributing biodiversity change to global change drivers

(Supervised by Dr Isla Myers-Smith, Dr Maria Dornelas and Dr Anne Bjorkman)

My PhD research aims to quantify the effects of land use change on global and local patterns of species richness, abundance and composition, and develop an innovative computational framework to facilitate answering fundamental questions in ecology using big data and global synthesis of long-term observations. In particular, I will investigate whether: 1) changes in species richness, abundance and composition can be attributed to land use change over recent decades, 2) land intensification and land abandonment are both causing species homogenisation, and 3) biodiversity change processes are more pronounced in areas of high land use change rates.

Understanding how global change drivers, such as land intensification and abandonment, are influencing ecosystems around the world is vital for facilitating international policy regulations to inform conservation measures and safeguard ecosystem functionality.

Population Responses of Five Bird Species to 12 Years of Agri-environment Schemes in Northeastern Scotland

(Supervised by Dr Ally Phillimore and Dr Allan Perkins)


The decline of farmland birds in the UK is one of the most well-documented cases of biodiversity loss globally, and despite land stewardship supported by funding from agri-environment schemes (AES), the negative trends have not yet been reversed. To investigate AES contribution towards farmland conservation, we compared the rates of population change of five priority farmland bird species across 53 farms in Northeastern Scotland. Integrating landscape complexity into scheme design and providing farmers with expert advice on land stewardship in their particular locality may improve AES cost-effectiveness and conservation merit.

Daskalova, G. N., Phillimore, A. B., & Perkins. A. J. Population responses of five bird species to 12 years of agri-environment schemes in Northeastern Scotland. (in prep for Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment)

Are rare species more likely to have declining population trends than common species?

(In collaboration with the Biodiversity Critical Thinking Group, University of Edinburgh)

In conservation science, “rare” and “threatened” are often used interchangeably when describing a species status. Although there is a prevailing assumption that rare species are more likely to have a negative population trend, this has not yet been tested for UK species. By combining data from the Living Planet Index and the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, we calculated local abundance and geographical range extent for 211 UK species. We then quantified an indicator of whether a population is threatened and related that to its rarity status.

You can read more about how we designed our project, as well as what our key findings are so far on the Critical Thinking blog.

Daskalova, G.N. Godlee, J.L. & Myers-Smith, I.H.  Are rare species more likely to have declining population trends than common species? (in prep for Ecology Letters)

Effects of agri-environment schemes across taxa and along a land use intensity gradient: a quantitative review

Through this meta-analysis, I aim to review the available literature on biodiversity impacts of agri-environment schemes in a range of landscapes, ranging from intensive to extensive land use. My interest in this topic is two-fold: firstly, I investigate the possibility of conservation conflicts arising from polar responses to stewardship policy, e.g. schemes beneficial for one taxa, but detrimental to another; secondly, I test whether agri-environment scheme effectiveness is contingent on the wider landscape, and in particular land use intensity.

I was also a research assistant and data manager at TeamShrub – the Tundra Ecology Lab at the University of Edinburgh where I am assisting with research on changes in active layer depth in the Arctic, vegetation structure, and more.