The zeta diversity of alien assemblages

Theme: Biodiversity & Ecology

Main Supervisor:

Tim Blackburn

Genetics, Evolution & Environment, UCL

Second Supervisor:

Cang Hui

Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology, Stellenbosch

Project Description:

Understanding natural variation in the presence or absence of species in assemblages, or compositional diversity, is a key element of the study of biodiversity. Recently, Hui & McGeoch (2014) proposed a new diversity metric, zeta, the number of species shared by multiple assemblages, as a concept and metric that unifies a range of diversity measures, patterns, and relationships. Zeta diversity reconciles several different biodiversity patterns, including the species accumulation curve, the species-area relationship, multispecies occupancy patterns, and scaling of species endemism. Furthermore, different forms of zeta diversity are associated with different community assembly processes.

To date, applications of zeta have focussed on native species assemblages. However, humans are increasingly translocating species to areas beyond their native ranges. This studentship would use zeta diversity to analyse whether these ‘aliens’ have similar patterns of compositional diversity and community assembly to natives, using global data on the distribution of native and alien bird and mammal species.

Policy Impact of Research:

Biological invasions threaten global biodiversity, as well as world food security, human health and the global economy. Understanding the mechanisms underpinning their diversity and spread will help efforts to mitigate these impacts.


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