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Doctoral defence in Biology - Aldís Erna Pálsdóttir

Doctoral defence in Biology - Aldís Erna Pálsdóttir - Available at University of Iceland
Tue, 28/06/2022 - 13:00 to 15:00


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Ph.D. student: Aldís Erna Pálsdóttir

Dissertation title: Effects of land conversion in sub-arctic landscapes on densities of ground-nesting birds.

Dr. David Douglas, Principal conservation scientist RSPB, UK
Dr. Ása L. Aradóttir, Professor at the Icelandic University of Agriculture

Advisor: Dr. Tómas Grétar Gunnarsson, Research Scientist and Director of the South Iceland Research Centre, University of Iceland

Doctoral committee: 
Dr. Jennifer A. Gill, Professor at the University of East Anglia, UK
Dr. Snæbjörn Pálsson, Professor at the Faculty of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Iceland
Dr. José Alves, Principal researcher at the University of Aveiro, Portugal

Chair of Ceremony: Dr. Anna Dóra Sæþórsdóttir, Professor and Head of the Faculty of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Iceland

Biodiversity is declining globally, and this is primarily driven by anthropogenic changes and alterations of natural habitats. In lowland Iceland, human impact has increased considerably in the past decades, often involving an increase in numbers of anthropogenic structures. The consequences of these land use changes for the important wildlife that these areas support is poorly known. The aim of this thesis was to study if and how four types of newly introduced structures/habitats (roads, summer houses, power lines and plantation forests) in the Icelandic lowlands affect the density and species composition of ground-nesting birds in the surrounding area. Surveys of bird abundance and distribution were undertaken throughout lowland areas of Iceland that varied in the number and extent of anthropogenic structures. Two species (Redwing and Snipe) were found in higher densities or showed no

change with distance from the structures, while six species (Meadow pipit, Black-tailed Godwit, Golden Plover, Oystercatcher, Whimbrel and Redshank) occurred in significantly lower densities close to at least one of these anthropogenic structures and, for roads and forests, these reduced densities occurred over distances up to 200 m. Reduced abundance close to structures was strongest for Golden Plover and Whimbrel, for which between 40-52% of the global populations currently breed in Iceland. The effects of land conversion of large areas of open habitats with roads, forest plantations, houses and power lines could potentially affect populations of these species, and point counts which have been carried out in the southern lowlands since 2011, in an area where anthropogenic influences are constantly expanding, have shown that while the local population of Redwing is increasing and Snipe numbers are stable, the remaining species are decreasing. Planning of future infrastructure locations and configurations should be designed to reduce impacts on the ground-nesting bird populations for which Iceland has international obligations, and protecting the remaining large tracts of open habitat is likely to be a priority.

About the doctoral candidate:

Aldís Erna Pálsdóttir was born in 1990 and is originally from Hafnarfjörður. She attended Menntaskólinn í Reykjavík from which she graduated in 2010, proceeding to study biology at the University of Iceland, graduating with BSc in 2013, and a MSc in 2016, but she also attended the University of Gothenburg for a part of her Msc. Aldís worked as an assistant teacher at the University alongside her studies as a PhD student, and recently began her job as project manager on the project Patterns of nest mortality in ground-nesting birds across land-use and climate gradients at the South Iceland Research center. Her parents are Páll Ólafsson physics engineer and Elínborg Guðmundsdóttir ophthalmologist. Aldís is married to computer engineer Hilmar Þór Birgisson and together they have two children, Sigrún Elfa and Páll Fannar.


Aldís Erna Pálsdóttir

Doctoral defence in Biology - Aldís Erna Pálsdóttir