The study will take place in Forsinard Nature Reserve which is part of the UK’s largest store of
terrestrial carbon and most extensive single tract of peatland (The Forsinard Flows, approximately
4000km2) (source: Centre for Ecology and Hydrology). The reserve is located in Sutherland (North
Scotland) and is managed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. The blanket bog at
Forsinard was submitted to extensive afforestation in the 1970s and 1980s. Restoration practices
started in 1998 and involved the clear-felling of established conifer plantations. At present, the
reserve consists of three main area types which are under different management regimes. These will
be used as sample sites and are as follows: 4
o Degraded areas (those that remain planted with trees)
o Restored areas (those that were felled)
o Target areas (pristine blanket bog, never submitted to afforestation)
Sampling will take place for two weeks at the end of July. I will be using sweep netting and suction
sampling to catch primarily terrestrial invertebrates. However, other members of staff might also
employ other trapping methods such as light trapping for moths. All collected insects will be stored in
zip-lock bags for transport back to the Institute where identification will take place in the laboratory.
Measurements of environmental variables, such as ground wetness and vegetation characteristics
(e.g. sward height, plant species), will also be carried out at each sample site.
At the Institute, I will be sorting all collected insects with the main emphasis on the orders Coleoptera
and Hemiptera. Once sorted, I will be using keys, guidebooks and the help of experts for identification
to species level. Identification will take place mostly under a microscope and may involve examination
of critical features, such as the dissection of genitalia. If time allows, I would like to identify further
invertebrate orders such as Hymenoptera, Diptera and Arachnids.
I will examine the data (i.e. species count, environmental variables) using multivariate analysis such
as Canonical Correspondence Analysis in order to determine the success of restoration activities in
terms of invertebrate assemblages that were subjected to the different management regimes.
Environmental variables will be investigated as potential explanatory variables of variation in
restoration success of the insect assemblages.
I will also carry out a trait analysis of the various species. Traits to be investigated will include species
life history, feeding preferences and wing size as a proxy for dispersal ability (classified as
micropterous, brachypterous, macropterous).