Monday, 2 December 2013

Biosciences Seminar Speaker - 05 December 2013

Biosciences Seminar Series - Michaelmas 2013
05 December 2013 - 1pm - Zoology Museum (Wallace 129)

Projecting Responses of Ecological Diversity In Changing Terrestrial Systems:

 Towards a global model of local biodiversity

Prof. Andy Purvis 

(Natural History Museum, UK)

Tree of life by Leonard Eisenberg, 2008

“It is an incalculable added 
know, even slightly and imperfectly, how to 
read and enjoy the wonder-book of nature.”

                                 – Theodore Roosevelt

Humans have marvelled at the diversity of life probably since ever and understanding how the diversity of life has evolved is arguably the most fundamental question in biology. However, on the 100th anniversary of the death of Alfred Russel Wallace, the Welsh naturalist who conceived the theory of evolution by natural selection (independently and at the same time as Charles Darwin, e.g. see here), it is increasingly clear that biodiversity is declining globally at a fast pace, maybe on the path to reach the rate of past mass extinctions (see here or here).

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This process may not be irreversible and an increasing number of successful conservation projects is reported (e.g. see 'Wild Hopes' and also here). A key question to address then is how to predict biodiversity dynamics under environmental change and this will be the topic addressed by our seminar speaker of this week, Prof. Andy Purvis from the Natural History Museum in London.

Andy has a broad interest in biodiversity science, ranging from changes in the diversity of planktonic foraminifera during the transition to the last ice age to the evolution and biogeography of passerine birds in the Indo-Pacific to how to predict local biodiversity responses to human-induced environmental change. The latter question is addressed by the PREDICTS project and will be the subject of this week's talk: 

Biodiversity underpins many ecosystem services on which human wellbeing largely depends, but a range of indicators show that biodiversity is continuing to decline. What about the future? The design of biodiversity indicators means that they cannot readily be projected into the future, whereas currently-available projections have a very limited evidence base.

The PREDICTS collaboration aims to provide a sounder basis for global projections of how local terrestrial biodiversity will change under scenarios of anthropogenic impacts, by pooling data sets from hundreds of studies of many different taxa from all around the world. I will explain the design of PREDICTS, give an overview of the first 1.2 million data points, and present results of two ongoing analyses.

The first is an all-encompassing analysis of how multiple facets of biodiversity are responding to land use change and intensification, with projections of the response to 2050 under scenarios developed by IPCC; the second looks in more detail at a group with particular economic importance - European bees - and asks how important species' functional traits are in determining how bees respond to agricultural change.

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Related papers:
Tim Newbold, Drew W. Purves, Jörn P. W. Scharlemann, Georgina Mace and Andy Purvis (2013). PREDICTS: Projecting Responses of Ecological Diversity in Changing Terrestrial Systems. Front. Biogeogr. vol: 4 no: 4 p: 155-156.

Tim Newbold, Jörn P. W. Scharlemann , Stuart H. M. Butchart, Çağan H. Şekercioğlu, Rob Alkemade, Hollie Booth and Drew W. Purves (2013) Ecological traits affect the response of tropical forest bird species to land-use intensity. Proc. R. Soc. B vol: 280 no: 1750. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2012.2131 

Cornelissen JHC, et al., 2013, Functional traits, the phylogeny of function, and ecosystem service vulnerability, ECOLOGY AND EVOLUTION, Vol:3, ISSN:2045-7758, Pages:2958-2975.

See you this Thursday - everyone is welcome!

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