How does climate modify the response of biodiversity to land use?

Theme: Biodiversity & Ecology

Main Supervisor:

Tim Newbold

Genetics, Evolution and Environment, UCL

Project Description:

Two major research questions for ecology and biodiversity science are: 1) How do responses of biodiversity to land use depend upon present climate and past climate change? 2) How does the interaction with climate change affect predictions about how biodiversity will respond to future land use? This project will seek to provide answers at a global scale.

Human land use and climate change are among the greatest threats to biodiversity. Large-scale models of their effects (e.g. Newbold et al., 2015; Thomas et al., 2004) have largely ignored interactions between the pressures. This PhD project will address these interactions, particularly investigating the role that climate plays in altering the effects of land-use change on biodiversity. Previous high-profile predictions of the effects of land-use change on biodiversity (e.g. Newbold et al., 2016) have ignored the effect that climate and climate change might play in moderating the effects of land use.

The project will involve statistical modelling of the response of biodiversity to land use, using an existing database (Hudson et al., 2014), taking into account the effect of climate and past climate change, and will consider variation in the results among geographical regions and among groups of species. Technically, the work will include a combination of spatial analysis (using Geographical Information Systems) and statistical analysis (using R).

Policy Impact of Research:

Understanding the interacting effects of climate and land use on biodiversity is of huge relevance to policy. The results of this project will be relevant to the work of the Convention on Biological Diversity (especially their Global Biodiversity Outlook report) and of the Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.


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