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Exploring drivers of rarity in the arable weed flora

Several iconic plant species that used to be common in cropped fields, including corncockle and corn marigold have dramatically decreased in frequency and abundance since the 1960s due to the intensification of agricultural production. In contrast, other species have remained common or even increased in abundance. Can we explain  the contrasting response of plant species to changes in management based on fundamental principles of community ecology?

You will explore alternative hypothesis for the shifts in arable plant composition and reasons for the decline species that have now become rare including the possibility of a rare weed trait syndrome and contrasts between specialist and generalist life history strategies. You will be based at Rothamsted Research and will also benefit from supervision by Prof Stevens at Lancaster and Dr Phil Wilson, an independent ecologist and national expert on rare arable weeds. You will use a combination of manipulative experiments, field surveys of rare weed communities and analysis of trait databases to elucidate the ecology of this important group of plants and contribute to strategies for their conservation.

As part of a vibrant post-graduate community at Rothamsted, you will benefit from an extensive programme of training and benefit from the experience of working in an inter-disciplinary research environment with clear routes to impact in the farming industry.


Applicants should hold a 2:1 degree or above in a subject related to this PhD project.


Please contact Jon Storkey at for more information.