EFFECTS OF LAND COVER AND CLIMATE CHANGE ON BIODIVERSITY

To date, the majority of biodiversity research regarding the implications of climate change has evaluated responses of individual species. However, the complex nature of ecological interactions makes it difficult to extrapolate individual-scale patterns to the community or ecosystem level. Investigating patterns of community turnover provides a more comprehensive understanding of the implications of climate change on the structure and composition of ecological communities. Furthermore, different communities are likely to respond to climate change differently because a wide range of environmental factors influence species’ vulnerabilities to climate change. Land cover type and habitat fragmentation are likely to influence the way in which biodiversity responds to climate change and are critical components of vulnerability assessments and effective climate change adaptation. To explore community-level impacts of climate and land cover change, I use innovative statistical techniques, such as hierarchical Bayesian modeling and occupancy modeling.

 

FUNCTIONAL AND PHYLOGENETIC DIVERSITY

Research on species richness has dominated the field of biodiversity studies for the past several decades. Species richness, however, does not describe the processes involved in species interactions well and can compromise our ability to understand the mechanisms responsible for biodiversity dynamics. Functional and phylogenetic diversities contain invaluable information regarding ecosystem functioning and community evolutionary history and are thus better suited to identifying the underlying processes that determine biodiversity dynamics. In my research, I recognize this multi-faceted nature of biodiversity by investigating functional and phylogenetic diversity of North American breeding birds.

 

SCALE-DEPENDENCE OF BIODIVERSITY PATTERNS

Biodiversity patterns and the mechanisms driving these patterns are inherently scale dependent. The examination of scale-dependence concurrently in space and time has the potential to resolve inconsistencies in biodiversity patterns, identify the scales relevant to different ecological processes, and identify the environmental drivers of biodiversity that would be missed with a singular spatial or temporal approach. As part of this research theme, I investigate spatial scaling of temporal changes in bird communities and explore scales at which landscape and climatic processes consistently drive changes in community composition.

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