Nataliia Pustilnik

PhD Candidate
Land Use and Biodiversity

Research interests: species-rich grasslands, climate resilience, barriers to adoption by farmers, and socio-ecological systems.

Background: MSc in socio-ecological resilience (Stockholm Resilience Centre), Food and Agriculture advisor at WWF-Netherlands, Project Officer (Agriculture) at WWF-Ukraine.

Over the last 20 years, an increasing proportion of dairy grasslands in the North Sea region have been managed intensively for productivity, often at the expense of other valuable ecosystem services provided by grasslands. Yet, some functions such as sward diversity can play an important role in ensuring stability of production in the face of climate change while also contributing to regional biodiversity recovery. This study aims to investigate the synergies and trade-offs between increased botanical diversity of productive dairy grasslands, productivity, and biodiversity. The thesis will apply a socio-ecological lens to understand how enhanced plant diversity can improve the climate resilience of grasslands (sustained productivity under drought) and how the governance system can be improved to account for the functions biodiversity provides and stimulate farmers to transition to species-rich grasslands. The following sub-questions will be addressed:

1.       How do species-rich grasslands perform in terms of biodiversity (plants, insects, and birds) and drought resistance?

2.       What is the accuracy of monitoring on-field plant diversity using UAV imagery?

3.       What are the opportunities and barriers for farmers to adopt species-rich grassland systems?

4.       What kind of multi-level governance system can stimulate and support the large-scale adoption of species-rich grasslands in the North Sea region in such a way that maximizes climate resilience and biodiversity?