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Laurence Cousseau

Drs. Laurence Cousseau
Terrestrial Ecology Unit
Department of Biology
Ghent University
K.L. Ledeganckstraat 35
9000 Gent Belgium

Phone: +32 (0)9 264 50 39

Avian landscape genetics and demography in a fragmented biodiversity hotspot

Land conversion by humans has heavily changed landscape structure and has resulted in significant loss of biodiversity. This is not only due to the loss of habitable areas for species but also to their fragmentation. Indeed habitat fragmentation affects several landscape properties such as the size and the isolation of habitat fragments modifying genetic and demographic processes within remaining populations. Ultimately those processes can interact to lead to extinction. Due to the complexity of species interactions and the diversity of species requirements, habitat fragmentation has not homogenous consequences between species. Hence have an integrated view of ecological consequences of habitat fragmentation is very challenging whereas this is necessary to allow conservation managements for endangered species. The effect of habitat fragmentation on species extinction is particularly obvious in tropical regions that shelter the majority of biodiversity hotspots and in the same time undergoing strong anthropogenic stressors, especially deforestation of native forest.

My PhD project aims to evaluate ecological and evolutionary responses to recent anthropogenic disturbances in several forest-specific birds from the Eastern Arc Mountains biodiversity hotspot in Africa. Using sampled birds from Kenyan and Tanzanian fragmented cloud forests I will perform

  • a landscape genetics study indicating how evolutionary processes interact with landscape features,
  • a demographic study using capture-mark-recapture models and
  • a combination of genetic and demographic results with species-specific ecological and behavioural features which will allow a better understanding of how anthropogenic disturbances drive evolution of natural populations.

Publication list (UGent affiliations only)