Working Group 18

Understanding recent biodiversity change across spatial and temporal scales

Recent global biodiversity declines present major ecological, social and economic problems. Despite substantial and compelling evidence for biodiversity loss in many places, new data syntheses suggest that local communities are resilient to species richness declines, throwing into question the seriousness, reality and implications of the modern biodiversity crisis. These recent findings have highlighted major and urgent research challenges for both basic and conservation-oriented biodiversity science. Our main objective is to resolve controversy over biodiversity trends by improving data and methods for detecting and attributing biodiversity change. We will synthesize theory about how diversity varies in space and time, and we will re-analyze existing diversity/abundance databases in light of these theoretical expectations. We will publish guidelines (in peer-reviewed journals, open access if possible) and analytical tools (e.g., R code) for detecting and attributing biodiversity change through time. We will produce a global database of >1200 local biodiversity time-series, and we will quantitatively assess biases and future data needs. We aim to determine the scale and severity of biodiversity change, to resolve recent controversy through collaborative exchange. We will constructively and productively consider not only the causes and magnitude of biodiversity change, but also its consequences for management and decision-making. This project reflects the strengths and support of a diverse research team and three biodiversity research centres. Two of Canada's premier centres, UBC's Biodiversity Research Centre and the Quebec Centre for Biodiversity Science, pledge in kind and financial support, and additional support from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) is pending. Project participants include leaders of biodiversity change research programs, experts in biodiversity analysis, ecology and conservation. Our collaboration began at iDiv (Germany, October 2014), and we hope to bring this fast-moving and important research area back to Canada.


Andrew Gonzalez (McGill University), Mark Vellend (Université de Sherbrooke), (),


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