PhD in progress: “Advancing biodiversity modelling using geodiversity information”
[Funded by NERC — studying at University of Nottingham, UK — started in October 2013]
Whilst we know that climatic variables are dominant drivers of biodiversity at coarse scales and over broad geographic areas, much remains to be discovered and tested at the regional, landscape and sub-landscape scales. Indeed, a long-term challenge in conservation and management is the mapping and modelling of biodiversity and species’ distributions at these scales. Recently, the concept of geodiversity (1) has been put forward as a novel, potentially useful correlate and predictor of biodiversity. Meanwhile, knowledge of different components of geodiversity (i.e. geofeatures such as landforms, lakes, rivers, etc) may be important for both biodiversity and species’ distributions.
I am using these ideas to enhance biodiversity and species’ distribution models by incorporating geodiversity information (that is data on landforms, geology, pedology, and hydrology) at varying grain sizes, study area extents, and geographic locations to establish when and where these data are most useful. The findings should improve our scientific knowledge of cross-scale biodiversity and distribution patterns, as well as allow us to work out the conceptual and empirical limits of geodiversity in conservation, ecology, and biodiversity science.
I am studying cross-scale patterns of native and alien plants in relation to geodiversity across all of Great Britain (this is in press at Global Ecology and Biogeography; see here). Alongside this, plot- and landscape-scale work is in progress in the Cairngorms National Park, Scotland, amongst other things.
My PhD is partly collaborative with researchers at Oulu University, Finland, as part of the GEOBIO project . The first part of this work has now been published in Conservation Biology (DOI: 10.1111/cobi.12799 [Open Access]). Here, we found that geodiversity data had relatively small (alongside climate and crude topography data such as elevation) but consistent additive effects in models of threatened species richness and rarity-weighted richness across multiple taxa in Finland’s national parks. More to come.
(1) Geodiversity may be defined as “the diversity of abiotic terrestrial and hydrological nature, comprising earth surface materials and landforms“