Project proposal details

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Project title
What makes a useful plant invasive?
Contact name
Samuel Pironon
Contact email
Project based at
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Imperial contact email
Project description
Invasive species represent a major driver of biodiversity loss at a global level, have increased dramatically in numbers over the last century, and are forecast to increase in the future due to global change. To date, the link between plant uses and invasiveness has rarely been quantified across the world.

This project aims to create a better understanding of the interaction between humans and invasive plants to improve sustainable development and lower impact on biodiversity.

This will be achieved through the following activities:
1. Using information from Royal Botanic Gardens Kew’s databases (World Checklist of Useful Plants, World Checklist of Vascular Plants), the student will quantify the relationship between useful and invasive plants, and identify which taxonomic groups contain the highest proportions of invasives, useful species, both and neither.
2. Based on data from global online databases (e.g. TRY), the student will use statistical methods (e.g. multivariate analyses) to determine which plant traits are most associated with invasiveness, usefulness, both and neither.
3. Using geographic and environmental data, the student will assess differences in geographic range and ecological niche sizes among taxa that are invasive, useful, both and neither.
Additional requirements
This project requires the use and analysis of big data of different types (e.g. taxonomy, traits, geography, environment, uses). Therefore, good basic knowledge of R programming and statistics is necessary.
Available support
The project will be home- and computed-based, with regular online meetings with supervisors and collaborators. If the covid situation allows, the student will also meet in-person with supervisors and collaborators at Kew. A desk can also be made available at Imperial, in the Gill lab.
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