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Changing biodiversity in changing environments: Trait Changes across space and time

Project description

Analysing recent changes in biodiversity through both species and community lenses

Human activity has had such an important impact on the climate and the environment in recent years that scientists have begun using the term 'Anthropocene' to define a sub-epoch within the current officially recognised epoch, Holocene, to reflect the significance. Biodiversity and its decline during the Anthropocene is an important field of research. We know very little about the characteristics (traits) and environmental drivers associated with incoming and outgoing species from various biomes and taxonomic groups. The EU-funded TraChange project is developing models of both species-level and community-level changes to get a better handle on what is happening to whom and why. The models will have a significant effect on our ability to mitigate the impact of human activity on biodiversity for a healthier planet.

Objective

Global concern about human impact on biological diversity has triggered an intense research agenda on drivers and consequences of biodiversity change in the Anthropocene. Recent evidence across biomes and taxonomic groups has revealed variable spatial patterns of losses and gains. However, little is known about the characteristics (i.e. traits) of the outgoing and incoming species in local assemblages undergoing rapid compositional turnover. Nor is it known how the magnitude of the different environmental drivers (e.g. climate change, land use change) influence such patterns. This points to a clear need for a deeper understanding of (I) identities and traits of incoming and outgoing species, (II) spatio-temporal differences in community trait distributions, and (III) the possible drivers behind such differences. The project aims to tackle this knowledge gap by determining whether there are consistent and directional changes in community traits unfolding in the Anthropocene. I will conduct in-depth studies at two different levels of ecological organization (species and community), using a range of modelling approaches to further our understanding of large-scale trait changes and test key assemblage trait distributions hypotheses. This will require the integration of research from diverse disciplines, including the development of new methods and tools. The research is proposed as a 2-year EF. USTAN will be the beneficiary host, while UoN will host me for two 2-month-long secondments. This MSCA will allow me to build a novel scientific profile, consolidate my position in the field, and progress towards achieving professional maturity. This research has great potential for scientific advancement and it will open up the best career possibilities for my career and new collaboration opportunities for me and the host organisations.