Geography - Masters by Research Theses

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    Analysis of the sea surface temperature variations around Ireland's coastline 2002-2020
    (University College Cork, 2022-07-13) Murphy, Aisling M.; Hickey, Kieran
    This thesis analyses the sea surface temperature variations around Ireland’s coastline from 2002-2020, using time series analysis of the one inactive and five currently active marine buoys. In depth analysis of the annual and seasonal sea surface temperature variations were assessed as well as spells of maximum and minimum sea surface temperature for each buoy. Both short term and long-term causations were identified as contributors to the variations in sea surface temperature experienced around Ireland’s coastline. Particular focus on the Atlantic Multidecadal Variability, The NAO Index, the North Atlantic hurricane season and the position of the jet stream were assessed and correlated with sea surface temperature changes around Ireland’s coastline from 2002-2020. These processes are interconnected and display a proportional relationship to each other as there is a high correlation between changes in these processes and a domino effect of other atmospheric and oceanic processes that influence sea surface temperatures around Ireland’s coastline. There were variations in the annual average SST between the buoys. The buoys M4 and M5 both recorded an overall increase in mean annual SST from 2002-2020. Buoys M2, M3 and M6 recorded an overall decrease in the mean annual SST from 2002-2020. No clear connection between the different annual SST trends between the buoys were identified, however their individual location in relation to the continental shelf was a local factor that may have contributed to the variations between the buoys. In depth analysis of the long- and short-term contributors to variations in SST around Ireland’s coastline showed that the most significant influencing factors of SST variations around Ireland’s coastline were the North Atlantic hurricane season track positions and the varying position of the jet stream. Both of these factors displayed a significant impact on the annual SST variations and the spells of either maximum or minimum SST for each buoy. These factors also contributed to changes in the NAO Index, which further influenced SST variations around Ireland’s coastline. The hurricane events contribute to the mixing of waters around Ireland’s coastline, causing unstable conditions and a high level of mixing waters during negative NAO Index occurrences. The AMV signal impacts on air temperature, causing an increase in the effect and frequency of hurricane events in the North Atlantic which influence SST around Ireland’s coastline. Assessment of ongoing changes in the position of the jet stream would be a critical factor in evaluation of future SST variations around Ireland’s coastline.
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    Incorporating biotic interactions in phenology
    (University College Cork, 2021-09-14) de la Torre Cerro, Rubén; Holloway, Paul; Cawkwell, Fiona; Environmental Protection Agency
    Shifts in the timing of phenological events such as bird migration, leaf unfolding, flowering, and insect emergence, across many taxa and ecosystems are a result of climate change. Phenological shifts depend on different factors and species-specific sensitivity to changes in meteorological variables, therefore when phenological shifts occur within the trophic network we might expect phenological mismatches between interlinked species to occur as a result of climate change, with potential negative effects for biodiversity, ecosystems and the trophic network. However, the availability of data that show how species interactions are affected by climate change is scarce and unified criteria are still lacking on the methodologies studying phenology and biotic interactions. The presented extensive review on the topic allowed the identification of four broad categories of studies that have explored biotic interactions within phenology research and revealed that phenological studies of seasons other than spring are very scarce. This unbalance was also found within biotic interactions research, where mutualistic and obligate interactions, trophic interactions and networks were the main types receiving the most attention compared to other types (i.e., facilitation, competition). Researchers have commonly used co-existence among species as a proxy for biotic interactions, in many cases without any direct measurement of such interactions, while a lack of formal examination in most studies exploring phenological mismatches in response to climate change was also often identified. A conceptual framework was developed for the inclusion of phenology in the study of biotic interactions that categorises research into the conceptualisation and modelling of biotic interactions. Conceptualisation explores phenological data, types of interactions, and the spatiotemporal dimensions, which all determine the representation for biotic interactions within the modelling framework, and the type of models that are applicable. Emerging opportunities were also identified to investigate biotic interactions in phenology research, including spatially and temporally explicit species distribution models as proxies for phenological events and the combination of novel technologies (e.g., acoustic recorders, telemetry data) to quantify interactions. This conceptual framework was applied to a case of study in Ireland, investigating the relevance of different meteorological drivers (maximum and minimum temperature and total precipitation) in the phenology and co-existence of several species linked through the trophic network. Phenological trends towards an earlier phenology in Ireland were identified in terms of advanced date of arrival of migrant birds, first flight of butterflies and moths and green-up (start of the growing season) over the period 2008-2018. A novel analysis developed by van de Pol et al. (2016), the relative sliding time window analyses, was applied in order to identify which meteorological drivers had higher influence on the phenological events of study. Results showed high interannual variability in the time windows at species and group level. We identified common trends between butterflies and moths to show greater influence of temperature time windows when closer to first flight, while in vegetation the opposite pattern was found. Three new indices of phenological change across different trophic levels are presented, these indices allowed to identify potential phenological asynchronies between trophic levels in Ireland and to develop a network of potential interactions based on synchrony among interlinked species.
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    Urban green and blue space in Cork city and its importance to bird diversity
    (University College Cork, 2019) Lambert, Luke; Holloway, Paul; Cawkwell, Fiona
    Urban green and blue spaces are well known for providing ecosystem services in built up areas but they are also becoming increasingly important as these spaces are becoming unique ecosystems for bird diversity. The aims of this study was to investigate the importance of green and blue space in Cork City to bird diversity, through the generation of a satellite image that captures the landscape configuration of Cork City and green and blue space it contains, examine the relationships between bird diversity (richness and abundance) and landscape metrics generated using FRAGSATS and by conducting field surveys. The impact of spatial scales and how they affect species-landscape relationships was also investigated through regression analysis. Using Sentinel-2 satellite data and a maximum likelihood classification, a comprehensive landcover map of Cork City was produced with reliable accuracy. The map revealed that two thirds of the city is composed of green and blue space. The field surveys recorded 62 species in the city. The statistical analysis gathered revealed that green space was the main driver in increasing species richness and abundance, while blue space produced mixed results. The edge effect phenomenon was also found to play a key role in increasing bird diversity. The regression models produced results that revealed a diversified and varied landscape was preferable to bird diversity as the scale was increased. The impact of scale also affected how important blue space is as a connective network within the city. Overall, this study has demonstrated that urban green and blue space is intrinsically linked to bird diversity in Cork City. 40% of the species that were recorded in the field surveys are listed as species of conservation concern in Ireland, with five of these species listed on the Red list. This finding has shown how urban spaces can provide habitats for vulnerable species, and provides precedence for implementing conservation initiatives within urban areas.
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    2000 - 2017 inventory of extreme weather events in Ireland
    (2019-01-01) Pasik, Adam; Hickey, Kieran; Leahy, Paul; Environmental Protection Agency
    Globally, extreme weather events are responsible for far more financial losses than the increase in mean temperature. In the context of climate change, attribution of the ever-increasing losses from these high-impact events is still contested. Some research finds climate change to drive the rising costs while other attributes this trend to socioeconomic factors such as higher population densities, demographical shift, accumulation of wealth and exposure of assets. As of yet no systematic inquiry into this matter has been carried out in Ireland. This research compiles a dataset of extreme weather events in Ireland between 2000 and 2017 based on an applied financial threshold of €30m. The overall annual losses are adjusted for inflation and emerging trends are identified and discussed. Population change and per capita GDP are considered as important variables in this research due to their potential to exacerbate losses even without any change in their frequency or climate. Temporal trends in population and per capita GDP are discussed as well as emerging spatial patterns in population distribution. Furthermore, loss values are normalized by adjusting them for inflation, population rise and GDP growth to better understand the relationship between losses from weather extremes and societal and economic factors. The results are contextualized in relevant peer-reviewed literature and compared to similar studies carried out elsewhere in the world. This study, in agreement with similar research implemented elsewhere, establishes an increasing trend in annual losses from weather extremes in Ireland, while also demonstrating that this trend is nullified by population rise and economic growth. During the study period population of Ireland has increased by 26.4%, resulting in 1 million new residents, meanwhile, the per capita GDP has more than doubled. Larger and wealthier populations hold more assets which can be potentially damaged. Losses from weather extremes in Ireland adjusted for population and wealth increase no longer show a rising trend, highlighting the importance of population densities and wealth accumulation as key factors driving the increase in financial damages stemming from weather and climatic extremes.