NERC-MOST Biodiversity change: integrating taxonomic, phylogenetic and functional diversity

Lead Research Organisation: University of St Andrews
Department Name: Biology

Abstract

Global warming, environmental change/degradation and human activities have led to an unprecedented threat to the world's biodiversity. How to quantify and estimate biodiversity change - how biodiversity is changing over time - has become one of the most pressing issues in biology, ecology, evolution, environmental science, bioinformatics, and related research fields. Robust and meaningful diversity measures that possess good mathematical/statistical properties and support biological reasoning about diversity are required. To date, most of the effort has been directed towards quantifying taxonomic diversity - i.e. species relative abundance and composition. However, it is now recognized that biodiversity has multiple dimensions and that it is essential to consider phylogenetic and functional diversity as well. Fortunately, remarkable progress in our understanding of phylogenies and the extensive collection of species traits opens the door to innovative approaches to the measurement and assessment of biodiversity change. At the same time, this is a complex challenge; collaboration among ecologists and mathematicians/statisticians is essential to tackle it.
This project will bring together world experts in the assessment of biodiversity, in a new collaboration. Its goal is to develop an integrated mathematical and statistical framework to quantify and estimate changes in taxonomic, phylogenetic and functional diversity, focusing on the BioTIME database. The focus of the work will be ecological assemblages, and how they change through time. Project partners are Sandra Diaz (Argentina), a world leader in quantifying functional diversity, and Anne Chao (leading the MOST component of the work) who is globally renowned for her statistical contributions to the quantification of biodiversity. They will collaborate with the UK (St Andrews) team (Anne Magurran and Maria Dornelas) who have pioneered the quantification of biodiversity change in taxonomic diversity. The new methodology will permit rigorous analysis of diversity changes for alpha, beta and gamma diversities based on all three dimensions of biodiversity (taxonomic, functional, phylogenetic). Access to the BioTIME database (biotime.st-andrews.ac.uk), currently the world's largest repository of assemblage time series, will provide a proof of concept of the methodology. We will also develop appropriate user-friendly, self-interpreting software, complete with online versions, and maintain a website featuring all software and statistical tools developed in this project. By offering a number of short visiting fellowships to postdocs, who will have an opportunity to work on key components of the analyses, we will increase the global reach of the collaboration. A workshop will provide a further opportunity to disseminate findings and secure the future of the collaboration. The project will thus forge a strong partnership between researchers who have not had the opportunity to work together in the past, while providing innovative solutions to an urgent ecological challenge.

Planned Impact

Our project sets out to contribute to the important goal of evaluating biodiversity change, by developing new approaches of quantifying how ecological assemblages are changing through time, taking account of the taxonomic, functional and phylogenetic dimensions of diversity. Its potential beneficiaries include scientists and policy makers, conservation managers, senior school students, and interested members of the general public. The IPBES Global Assessment, published 6 May 2019, underlines the timeliness of this challenge.

Anne Chao and her team will develop appropriate user-friendly, self-interpreting software, complete with online versions, and maintain a website featuring all software and statistical tools developed in this project. The BioTIME database, developed by Maria Dornelas and Anne Magurran, and hosted at the University of St Andrews; it is already open access. By linking the database and the software we will increase the potential impact of the work. Social media and University Press Offices will help disseminate these outputs to wider audiences. We can measure the uptake of these resources through download statistics. The project will conclude with a working group that maps out the extended collaboration. This group will be tasked with maximizing the societal impact of the work, as well as establishing future scientific goals. Sandra Diaz is a world leader in sharing information about biodiversity and biodiversity change with policy makers and wider society, and co-chair of the IPBES Global Assessment. We will be able to draw on her skills in developing strategies to disseminate the work to beneficiaries.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description A new method of measuring how biodiversity changes over time has been developed. This approach has substantial statistical advances over prvious methods, and provides results that support insightful ecological interpretations of change. The paper is currently in review in a specialist journal

Chao, A., Henderson, P.A., Chiu, C-H, Moyes, F. , Hu, K.-H., Dornelas, M., Magurran, A.E.. Measuring temporal change in alpha diversity: a framework integrating taxonomic, phylogenetic and functional diversity and the iNEXT-3D standardization. Submitted to Methods in Ecology and Evolution
Exploitation Route We believe these methods will have considerable application in environmental management and conservation. The project will continue to develop this proof of concept
Sectors Environment

 
Title Data supporting - Measuring temporal change in alpha diversity: a framework integrating taxonomic, phylogenetic and functional diversity and the iNEXT-3D standardization 
Description Supporting files for the proposed paper - Measuring temporal change in alpha diversity: a framework integrating taxonomic, phylogenetic and functional diversity and the iNEXT-3D standardization 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2021 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact http://140.114.36.3/wordpress/software_download/inext-3d/ provides code to allow users to replicate the analyses using these data 
URL https://risweb.st-andrews.ac.uk/portal/en/datasets/data-supporting--measuring-temporal-change-in-alp...
 
Title Measuring temporal change in alpha diversity: a framework integrating taxonomic, phylogenetic and functional diversity and the iNEXT-3D standardization 
Description Biodiversity is a multifaceted concept covering different levels of organisation from genes to ecosystems. Biodiversity has at least three dimensions: (i) Taxonomic diversity (TD): a measure that is sensitive to the number and abundances of species. (ii) Phylogenetic diversity (PD): a measure that incorporates not only species abundances but also species evolutionary histories. (iii) Functional diversity (FD): a measure that considers not only species abundances but also species' traits that influence ecosystem functioning among coexisting species. We integrate the three dimensions of diversity under a unified framework of Hill numbers and their generalizations. Our analysis informs a mechanistic interpretation of biodiversity change in the three dimensions of diversity. Accompanying free ware, iNEXT-3D, is also being developed. This work is currently in review 
Type Of Material Data analysis technique 
Year Produced 2021 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact N/A - too early, will report next year 
 
Description Ongoing collaboration with Drs Anne Chao, National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan and Dr Sandra Diaz, Profesora Titular Ecología de Comunidades y Ecosistemas, Universidad Nacional de Cordoba, Argentiba 
Organisation National Tsing Hua University (Taiwan)
Country Taiwan, Province of China 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Ongoing collaboration towards developing new, effective methods of quantifying biodiversity change
Collaborator Contribution This is work in progress towards new of methodologies of quantifying biodiversity change, with the partners bringing complementary statistical and ecological skills to the project. To be clear the 540000TWD mentioned above is the funding for the associated MOST grant to Anne Chao
Impact This is work in progress that has inevitably been delayed by the pandemic. New methods have been developed and are in review. These outputs will be reported in subsequent years
Start Year 2020
 
Description Ongoing collaboration with Drs Anne Chao, National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan and Dr Sandra Diaz, Profesora Titular Ecología de Comunidades y Ecosistemas, Universidad Nacional de Cordoba, Argentiba 
Organisation National University of Cordoba
Country Argentina 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Ongoing collaboration towards developing new, effective methods of quantifying biodiversity change
Collaborator Contribution This is work in progress towards new of methodologies of quantifying biodiversity change, with the partners bringing complementary statistical and ecological skills to the project. To be clear the 540000TWD mentioned above is the funding for the associated MOST grant to Anne Chao
Impact This is work in progress that has inevitably been delayed by the pandemic. New methods have been developed and are in review. These outputs will be reported in subsequent years
Start Year 2020