The Potential of Alien Plants to Affect Evolution and Natural Selection of Wildlife in South West Ireland

The Potential of Alien Plants to Affect Evolution and Natural Selection of Wildlife in South West Ireland

Project Title: The potential of alien plants to affect evolution and natural selection of wildlife in south west Ireland

Funding Body: Cork County Council

Period: October 2009 - September 2011

Researcher: Emer Walker

Project Description 

This project will investigate the phenology of alien and native plant species in the Glengarriff Wood Nature Reserve and Uragh Wood, Kenmare. Food availability varies throughout the year and the food supply provided by the alien plant species, outside the usual flowering and fruiting period of native plants, may bridge the gap for a number of native Irish wildlife species (e.g. pollinators and birds). Food scarcity occurs during the winter/spring period and results in the death of many individuals within an ecosystem. Only the individuals that survive and reach sexual maturity have had the required fitness to pass their gene onto the next generation. The additional food supply provided by the alien plants may allow weaker individuals to survive and contribute to the next gene pool thus impacting the processes of evolution and natural selection. By assessing the food availability in a number of different habitats such as conifer plantation, oak woodland, grassland, peatland and rivers and streams, I hope to determine the contribution that alien plant species make to the overall food supply and its impacts on Irish wildlife.

Environmental Research Institute

University College Cork, Lee Road, Cork

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