Interactions amongst drivers of biodiversity change: a question of scale?

feathers against a white background

Contour (body) feathers from several different species of birds © The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London

Understanding the major drivers of biodiversity change and how they interact is critical to informing future biodiversity predictions and underpinning solutions to biodiversity loss.

The natural world is changing at an unprecedented rate. Scientists from many disciplines are considering approaches to mitigating the adverse consequences of the observed transformative global shifts in biodiversity. However, understanding the major drivers of biodiversity change and the interactions among them is critical to informing predictions and underpinning solutions.

The recent IPBES Global Assessment on Biodiversity and Ecosystems ranked the impact of the five main direct drivers of biodiversity change as: land/sea use change, direct exploitation, climate change, pollution and invasive alien species. However, this synthesis omitted three aspects that are crucial if proposed solutions are to work: context, scale and the interactions among drivers.

The synthesis showed context to be important, with each driver dominating in different circumstances, but did not analyse it further. Scale was also acknowledged as important, with some drivers more naturally operating on local community assembly processes and others at much larger scales.

Lastly, drivers are likely to have non-additive effects, with synergies being particularly challenging for mitigation actions.

This project will focus on invasive alien species with the main goals of:

  • Assessing the magnitude of impact of invasive alien species at various spatial and temporal scales in comparison to the other four main direct drivers of biodiversity change.
  • Apply modelling approaches to assess the interactions among the drivers of biodiversity change and inform predictions of future threats.
  • Exploring the metrics used to assess impact on biodiversity and ecosystems including recommendations for encompassing ecological complexity through network approaches within biodiversity indicators.
  • Consider options for mitigation and adaptation as potential solutions through a case study on islands with a focus on Atlantic and Caribbean UK Overseas Territories.

A multidisciplinary project

Modelling approaches will be used to address macroecological questions with relevance to ecosystem function, resilience and conservation. The outcomes will have considerable policy and societal relevance. Science communication and public engagement with research will be important components of this study.

Elligibility and how to apply

Find out more about the Science and Solutions for a Changing Planet Doctorate Training Program and how to apply on their website

Application deadline: 4 January 2021

Apply for this project

Find out more about the Science and Solutions for a Changing Planet Doctorate Training Program and how to apply on their website

Application deadline: 4 January 2021

Any questions?

UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

Main supervisor: Prof Helen Roy

Supervisors

The Natural History Museum

Prof Andy Purvis

Imperial College London

Dr Cristina Banks-Leit

 

Science and Solutions for a Changing Planet (SSCP) doctoral training partnership

This is a joint project between The Science and Solutions for a Changing Planet (SSCP) Doctoral Training Partnership at Imperial College London and The Natural History Museum.

Funded by