Wednesday 25 May 2016

BioMaths Colloquium - 27/05/2016

BioMaths Colloquium Series - 2015/16

27 May 2016 - 3pm Maths Seminar Room

(room 224 Talbot Building 2nd floor)

Mathematical Modelling of Plankton–Oxygen Dynamics Under the Climate Change

Prof Sergei V. Petrovskii

from: Sekerci & Petrovskii (2015) BUll. Math. Biol.

Ocean dynamics is known to have a strong effect on the global climate change and on the composition of the atmosphere. In particular, it is estimated that about 70 % of the atmospheric oxygen is produced in the oceans due to the photosynthetic activity of phytoplankton. However, the rate of oxygen production depends on water temperature and hence can be affected by the global warming. 

In this paper, we address this issue theoretically by considering a model of a coupled plankton–oxygen dynamics where the rate of oxygen production slowly changes with time to account for the ocean warming. We show that a sustainable oxygen production is only possible in an intermediate range of the production rate. If, in the course of time, the oxygen production rate becomes too low or too high, the system’s dynamics changes abruptly, resulting in the oxygen depletion and plankton extinction. 

Our results indicate that the depletion of atmospheric oxygen on global scale (which, if happens, obviously can kill most of life on Earth) is another possible catastrophic consequence of the global warming, a global ecological disaster that has been overlooked.

The discussions will continue over biscuits and tea/coffee after the seminar. 
Hope to see many of you!

Tuesday 17 May 2016

Biosciences Seminar Speaker 19 May 2016

Biosciences Seminar Series - Spring 2016
19 May 2016 - 1pm - Zoology Museum

Can sustainable agriculture give us a sustainable food system?

Prof Tim Benton

(University of Leeds, UK)

Image from

Other than at a small scale, it makes little sense to think about sustainable agriculture (the supply of food), without also thinking about the demand for food that drives production within the agri-food system.  I’ll examine notions of sustainability, from an environmental perspective, and some of the wicked problems that arise from agriculture impacting upon many ecosystem services (leading to trade-offs between different aspects of impact).  

Whilst we can get better at managing agricultures’ impacts through changing farming efficiency and thinking about ecosystem services and their provision at a landscape scale, without tackling demand, the drive for “intensification” will dominate production systems.  Thus, ultimately, a sustainable farming system requires sustainable demand.

Hope to see many of you - everyone most welcome to attend!

Monday 9 May 2016

Biosciences Seminar Speaker 12 May 2016

Biosciences Seminar Series - Spring 2016
12 May 2016 - 1pm - Zoology Museum

Land-use impacts on 'beeodiversity' and biodiversity: from data to models to policy

Dr Adriana De Palma

from: Natural History Museum London -

Bees are one of the most important groups of pollinators and are threatened by a number of human impacts, but some key knowledge gaps limit our ability to inform conservation activities. Which species or groups of species are most vulnerable to human land use and agricultural intensification? Do different aspects of bee diversity – taxonomic, functional and phylogenetic diversity – respond similarly to land-use pressures? Are responses consistent around the world? Where has bee diversity been most heavily impacted? 

As part of the PREDICTS project (, I have collated a global dataset of bee diversity from the published literature and integrated it with information on land use, species' traits and phylogeny in order to answer these questions. Whereas that work was based on spatial comparisons, my current work (on “PREDICTS v2”) directly focuses on the temporal dynamics of biodiversity in response to land-use change. Both projects have the potential to inform policy decisions, but making the link between policy needs and PREDICTS outputs can be difficult; I will outline some of the ways in which the PREDICTS project has been engaging with policy.

Hope to see many of you - everyone most welcome to attend!

Tuesday 3 May 2016

Biosciences Seminar Speaker 05 May 2016

Biosciences Seminar Series - Spring 2016
05 May 2016 - 1pm - Zoology Museum

Predicting wildlife dynamics in a changing environment

Dr Ben Collen

We live amid a global wave of anthropogenically driven biodiversity loss. Over the past decade, numerous metrics for biodiversity — including species abundance, extinction risk, distribution, genetic variability, species turnover, and trait diversity—have been used to create indicators to track how biodiversity has changed.  These indicators have made it
 clear that broad scale biodiversity loss, however it is measured, is showing 
little sign of abatement and 
that humans must respond to safeguard the provision of natural services on which we all rely. 
Butchert etal 2010 Science

But which metrics provide 
the most informative indicators
 under which circumstances? And how can the growing list of indicators best serve conservation policy decisions? I review the responses of animal populations to a range of human mediated drivers of change, showing where biological science has been effective at tracking recent changes in nature, and where gaps remain. I then examine prospects for predicting future changes, and why they matter to the biosphere and humans. 

I argue that evidence-based modelling can allow the causal relationships between policy actions, biodiversity change and indicators of change to be better understood. Developed correctly, indicators can start to tell us how we can best conserve biodiversity, not simply that we are failing to do so. 

Hope to see many of you - everyone most welcome to attend!