TIME-LINES - Quantifying biodiversity change


One of the most exciting and important research questions in ecology and palaeoecology is how fast, where, and why biodiversity is changing; heated debate on the topic within the scientific community reflects observations of apparently heterogeneous rates of change across the world. Biodiversity responses to different types of drivers of change remain underexplored, because to study these phenomena over the necessary span of years (often centuries to millennia) patterns and processes must be inferred from fossil records. There is also evidence that geographical attributes may mediate biodiversity responses to drivers of change, creating further complexity. That biodiversity change is spatially structured is the main hypothesis of TIME-LINES, which will examine ~5000 years of plant biodiversity change and the drivers of that change using a range of high-quality palaeoecological records derived from sedimentary sequences from islands worldwide. Islands are often described as hotspots of biodiversity and natural laboratories with legacies of relatively recent human impacts. For the first time, it is feasible to build palaeoecological networks at biogeographical scales. TIME-LINES will first establish the historical ranges of variability for both drivers of change and biodiversity. Aligning information on the magnitude of biodiversity change with the geographic properties of islands can then address whether change both at taxonomic and functional levels, is mediated by geographical context. The results will open new research horizons, bringing palaeoecology and biogeography together, and developing methods to quantify the effects of drivers of change—not only for islands but elsewhere, and in much greater depth than has been possible to date. From these findings, we can address to what degree historically informed baselines and change trajectories have utility for sustainable biodiversity management.


Financial/grant information:

This project is funded by the European Research Council for a total cost of €1 986 196