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Dr Hefin Jones 

My research interests are broad, and encompass population and community ecology, climate change and biodiversity. They centre on three main areas: soil biodiversity, concentrating on the interactions between below-ground and above-ground herbivory and the relationship between soil biota diversity and ecosystem processes; trophic interactions, in both terrestrial and aquatic environments, and, more recently, specifically interactions between fungi and soil invertebrates; and thirdly, the impact of climate change on these interspecific interactions.

Trybliographa rapae (cynipid parasitoid) attacking cabbage root fly larva

Trybliographa rapae (cynipid parasitoid) attacking cabbage root fly larva.

Much of my earlier research work attempted to bridge field, laboratory and theoretical ecology.  For example, working with M P Hassell (Imperial College) and S W Pacala (Princeton University) we developed a simple mathematical model, parameterised from field data, exploring the population dynamics of a major horticultural pest insect, the cabbage root fly, Delia radicum. In this study of D. radicum and its two most common parasitoids we showed that instead of the relatively straightforward dynamics exhibited by the paired species interactions, the three species system presented far more complex and widel-ranging set of properties.

Harvesting at Glen Shee

Harvesting at Glen Shee, Summer 2000.

At Silwood Park I also initiated a long-term study of the tri-trophic interaction between thistles, their tephritid gallmakers and their parasitoids. This developed, in collaboration with S E Hartley (University of York, UK) and A D Vanbergen (NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology – Edinburgh) investigating the relative roles of plant resource (bottom-up) and natural enemy (top-down) influences in determining herbivore abundance. I was also involved in a study exploring the relative importance of grazing pressure and resource availability in grass-heather competition in north-east Scotland, and the effects of land-use change, in particular, grazing, on tri-trophic interactions.

Measuring photosynthesis in the Ecotron

Measuring photosynthesis in the Ecotron.

As Ecotron Project Leader, working with J H Lawton (Centre for Population Biology, Silwood Park), I initiated projects on climate change and soil biodiversity. These included a 3-year project investigating the effects of global environmental change on terrestrial populations and communities; the role of earthworm species and functional group diversity in terrestrial communities and, prior to leaving Imperial College for Cardiff University, the interactions between soil fauna, soil microbial assemblages and soil ecosystem processes.  To understand the role of different faunal groups, and their interactions, in soil carbon and nitrogen fluxes we had to determine how manipulating soil faunal diversity affected carbon dynamics, in terms of carbon pathways, rates of movement and mass balance. Using 13C label, and in collaboration with M A Bradford (Yale University) we set-about determining (i) how carbon-assimilation, and subsequent retention (and hence turnover) of the assimilated carbon, is affected by a faunal diversity gradient, and (ii) how carbon movement through different pools and pathways is affected by decreasing faunal diversity.  

Microcosm - Phallus impudicus growing in laboratory microcosm

Microcosm - Phallus impudicus growing in laboratory microcosm

Since moving to Cardiff University, I am again studying, in collaboration with SJ Ormerod and RJ Thomas (Cardiff University), and SN Johnson (Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, University of West Sidney, Australia), trophic interactions within a climate change context.  Using laboratory microcosms I have also developed numerous collaborations with L Boddy (Cardiff University), P Baldrian (Institute of Microbiology, Prague, Czech Republic) and E Kandeler (University of Hohenheim, Germany) investigating how mycelial morphology and physiological/biochemical functioning of saprotrophic soil basidiomycetes can alter dramatically in the presence of soil invertebrates.

Grants (2000 – present)

Support for this research has been provided by:

The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
UK Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Defra)
The British Council
The Royal Society
The Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation
European Science Foundation (ESF)
Landfill Communities Fund (LCF)

Research Team

Don A’Bear (2010 – 2014) – Impacts of climate change on decomposer fungus–invertebrate interactions and ecosystem processes (Natural Environment Research Council - NERC)

Hannah Burton (2012 – 2015) – Genetic diversity, resistance and resilience to climate change (Cardiff University – President Scholarship)

Tom Crowther (2008 – 2012) – Effects of grazing soil fauna on the functioning and community composition of saprotrophic basidiomycete fungi (NERC)

Matt Dray (2010 – 2013) – The effects of elevated atmospheric CO2 on leaf chemistry and  decomposition (Cardiff University – President Scholarship)

Luke Evans (2012 -2015) – Human-crocodile conflict: Increasing understanding through satellite tracking, education, and resource management (Danau Girang Field Centre)

Will Hentley (2010 – 2014) – Trophic cascades in a changing climate – effects of elevated CO2 on the breakdown of plant defences (NERC)

Becky Marsh (2010 – 2013) – Climate change and dynamic sediment controls on stream organisms: a case study in the Severn Catchment (Cardiff University – President Scholarship) 

Scott McKenzie (2010 – 2014) Effects of elevated CO2 in the plant-mediated interaction between above- and belowground herbivores (NERC)

Adam Seward (2007 – 2012) Impacts of climate changes on a long-distance migratory bird, the northern wheatear (NERC) 

Paul Sinnadurai (2006 – 2014) Ecology of beetles (Carabidae) on exposed sediments in a modified riverine environment (Brecon Beacons National Park Authority)

James Vafidis (2011 – 2014) The effect of climate change on wetland ecosystems (Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarship)

Affiliated Researcher

James Ryalls (HIE, University of West Sydney) – Climate change and aboveground-belowground interactions in lucerne – impacts of root herbivory on aboveground herbivores and their symbionts