Nav: Home

Mapping global biodiversity change

October 17, 2019

A new study, published in Science, which focuses on mapping biodiversity change in marine and land ecosystems shows that loss of biodiversity is most prevalent in the tropic, with changes in marine ecosystems outpacing those on land. The research, led by scientists from the University of St Andrews, in collaboration with leading universities across Europe, the USA and Canada, including McGill, aimed at reaching a consensus about variation in biodiversity change. It found that there were both negative and positive changes in ecosystems across the world and that although on average the numbers of species that live in each place are not changing, many regions were either gaining or losing species.

A longitudinal look at changes in biodiversity

The international team of scientists examined longitudinal variation in species richness and composition by piecing together and mapping over 50,000 biodiversity time series from studies across the planet using the biodiversity database BioTIME, hosted at the University of St Andrews, to establish clear geographic variation in biodiversity change.

Scientists were then able to dissect variation in biodiversity trends to identify the places and types of organisms that are changing most rapidly. Detecting geographic variation in biodiversity trends will not only improve understanding of how global biodiversity is changing but also inform conservation priorities by identifying which regions to protect and which regions to help recover.

Biodiversity recovery as well as loss

Lead researcher Dr Maria Dornelas, from the School of Biology at the University of St Andrews, said: "Our study shows biodiversity is changing everywhere, but we are not losing biodiversity everywhere. Some places are recovering and adapting.

"When biodiversity is in the news these days, it is often because the Amazon is on fire, or there is a global mass mortality event in coral reefs, and rightly so, because these are terrifying news. However, there is a lot of recovery also taking place silently in the background, and many places where not much is happening. Our study puts these things on the map and shows they are not contradictory.

"We knew that biodiversity is affected by many different human actions, with different timings and effects, but we didn't have a clear understanding of what were the net effects of these actions across the planet."

Geographical variation in changes in biodiversity

"Our study shows how biodiversity change varies geographically. The species that make up local assemblages are changing everywhere, but these changes are happening faster in marine compared to terrestrial assemblages," said Shane Blowes, the first author from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv).

Sarah Supp, from Denison University in Ohio and joint first author of the paper, added: "Biodiversity change is complex to understand because it can be measured in many different ways, including the number of unique species, and the identities of those species. Our study shows that while some locations have experienced decreases in the numbers of species, others show increases or little change at all. More consistently, however, the identities of species appear to be changing at nearly all sites - this kind of change is critical to planning conservation and management strategies, particularly for sites exhibiting rapid turnover.

"Our study provides an important description of biodiversity change across the planet and highlights the value of monitoring biodiversity through time. Further, it provides motivation to increase our data sharing and establishing new long-term field sites to include greater geographic coverage - for example, more tropical and freshwater systems."

McGill researcher and coauthor Dr. Andrew Gonzalez concluded: "the Earth is going through a great geographic reorganization of its biodiversity in response to human activities and climate change. Given what we know it is likely this will continue for decades to come".
-end-
"The geography of biodiversity change in marine and terrestrial assemblages" in Science:https://science.sciencemag.org/cgi/doi/10.1126/science.aaw1620

About McGill University

Founded in Montreal, Quebec, in 1821, McGill is a leading Canadian post-secondary institution. It has two campuses, 11 faculties, 13 professional schools, 300 programs of study and over 40,000 students, including more than 10,400 graduate students. McGill attracts students from over 150 countries around the world, its 12,500 international students making up 30% per cent of the student body. Over half of McGill students claim a first language other than English, including approximately 20% of our students who say French is their mother tongue.

Contact:

Cynthia Lee
McGill Media Relations Office
514-398-6754
cynthia.lee@mcgill.ca

http://www.mcgill.ca/newsroom/

http://twitter.com/McGillU

McGill University

Related Climate Change Articles:

Mysterious climate change
New research findings underline the crucial role that sea ice throughout the Southern Ocean played for atmospheric CO2 in times of rapid climate change in the past.
Mapping the path of climate change
Predicting a major transition, such as climate change, is extremely difficult, but the probabilistic framework developed by the authors is the first step in identifying the path between a shift in two environmental states.
Small change for climate change: Time to increase research funding to save the world
A new study shows that there is a huge disproportion in the level of funding for social science research into the greatest challenge in combating global warming -- how to get individuals and societies to overcome ingrained human habits to make the changes necessary to mitigate climate change.
Sub-national 'climate clubs' could offer key to combating climate change
'Climate clubs' offering membership for sub-national states, in addition to just countries, could speed up progress towards a globally harmonized climate change policy, which in turn offers a way to achieve stronger climate policies in all countries.
Review of Chinese atmospheric science research over the past 70 years: Climate and climate change
Over the past 70 years since the foundation of the People's Republic of China, Chinese scientists have made great contributions to various fields in the research of atmospheric sciences, which attracted worldwide attention.
A CERN for climate change
In a Perspective article appearing in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Tim Palmer (Oxford University), and Bjorn Stevens (Max Planck Society), critically reflect on the present state of Earth system modelling.
Fairy-wrens change breeding habits to cope with climate change
Warmer temperatures linked to climate change are having a big impact on the breeding habits of one of Australia's most recognisable bird species, according to researchers at The Australian National University (ANU).
Believing in climate change doesn't mean you are preparing for climate change, study finds
Notre Dame researchers found that although coastal homeowners may perceive a worsening of climate change-related hazards, these attitudes are largely unrelated to a homeowner's expectations of actual home damage.
Older forests resist change -- climate change, that is
Older forests in eastern North America are less vulnerable to climate change than younger forests, particularly for carbon storage, timber production, and biodiversity, new research finds.
Could climate change cause infertility?
A number of plant and animal species could find it increasingly difficult to reproduce if climate change worsens and global temperatures become more extreme -- a stark warning highlighted by new scientific research.
More Climate Change News and Climate Change Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Debbie Millman: Designing Our Lives
From prehistoric cave art to today's social media feeds, to design is to be human. This hour, designer Debbie Millman guides us through a world made and remade–and helps us design our own paths.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#574 State of the Heart
This week we focus on heart disease, heart failure, what blood pressure is and why it's bad when it's high. Host Rachelle Saunders talks with physician, clinical researcher, and writer Haider Warraich about his book "State of the Heart: Exploring the History, Science, and Future of Cardiac Disease" and the ails of our hearts.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Insomnia Line
Coronasomnia is a not-so-surprising side-effect of the global pandemic. More and more of us are having trouble falling asleep. We wanted to find a way to get inside that nighttime world, to see why people are awake and what they are thinking about. So what'd Radiolab decide to do?  Open up the phone lines and talk to you. We created an insomnia hotline and on this week's experimental episode, we stayed up all night, taking hundreds of calls, spilling secrets, and at long last, watching the sunrise peek through.   This episode was produced by Lulu Miller with Rachael Cusick, Tracie Hunte, Tobin Low, Sarah Qari, Molly Webster, Pat Walters, Shima Oliaee, and Jonny Moens. Want more Radiolab in your life? Sign up for our newsletter! We share our latest favorites: articles, tv shows, funny Youtube videos, chocolate chip cookie recipes, and more. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.