UK-led project receives $2.5m from NSF to study climate change and biodiversity

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LEXINGTON, Kentucky (August 29, 2022) — A study led by the University of Kentucky has been selected for funding by the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Biodiversity on a Changing Planet program, an international, transdisciplinary effort that addresses key challenges related to climate change. The five-year project received nearly $2.5 million.

Led by Michael McGlue, Associate Professor at Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences (EES) from the College of Arts and Sciences in the United Kingdom, the study seeks to understand how the aquatic biodiversity of the Great Rift Valley in Africa is affected by climate change.

The award marks a milestone for climate research in the UK – something McGlue and EES professors hope to see even more support from Kentucky’s flagship land-grant institution.

“Commonwealth citizens have been hit by natural disasters (floods, landslides, drought) with increasing severity as the climate has changed and the future remains uncertain,” McGlue said. “More research into climate change and its impacts is badly needed in the UK, including work that will help build the resilience and preparedness of Kentucky communities.”

In this project, McGlue and his collaborators (including scientists from the University of Toledo, the University of Wyoming, the University of Arizona, the University of Connecticut, the State University of Indiana and Brown University) will study the food web of Lake Tanganyika, one of sub-Saharan Africa’s most prolific inland fisheries. While the lake is renowned for its biodiversity, the vast and ancient ecosystem is threatened by climate change in ways that are not yet well understood.

“Climate and environmental changes present complex issues for life on Earth,” McGlue said. “In the tropics, climate change threatens the functioning of freshwater fisheries and puts poor communities at risk of losing an important source of food.”

The project, titled “The impact of climate change on functional biodiversity across spatiotemporal scales in Lake Tanganyika, Africa”, will assess several different scenarios of climate change and its effects on lake ecosystems. Using high-resolution geological records, fossils and genetic tools, the team will set up a series of experiments to track the variability of the lake’s biodiversity over thousands of years. The results will show how the food web responds to changes in temperature and precipitation, with potential to predict changes in biodiversity under severe climate uncertainty. large tropical lakes.

With this information in hand, fisheries and ecosystem managers will be better equipped to make decisions that preserve food resources.

McGlue hopes this project will lead to even greater support for climate change research and education in the UK. EES professor and president Edward Woolery echoed the importance.

“Geological science is the natural home for understanding the fundamentals of global environmental change and climate-related risk,” Woolery said. “This award demonstrates our program’s strong commitment to these societal important areas of scholarship. Our aim is for EES to become a leader in climate change research and education, which both serve the UK’s land grant mission and help our communities adapt and move forward in a uncertain future.

Additionally, McGlue and many EES faculty are part of the statewide Kentucky Climate Consortium, headquartered in the UK. This group, which includes members from UK colleges and research centers and other public institutions, serves as a catalyst for climate research and education in Kentucky. The consortium provides networking opportunities for Kentucky-based climate scientists and enables them to leverage their expertise to collaboratively pursue climate research, education, and public outreach.

Learn more about the Kentucky Climate Consortium at www.research.uky.edu/climate-consortium.

The research reported in this publication was supported by the National Science Foundation under award number 2224886. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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