How can our current knowledge about species’ responses to the environment and competition inform forecasts of future biodiversity patterns?

 

Global climate change is one of several major global-scale drivers of environmental change. While the responses of species to climate change are increasingly documented, the implications for natural communities are not as well understood. This is due in large part to the fact that as species respond, they do so in different ways or at different rates across communities, meaning that species interactions are themselves changing with climate change. Currently, we lack a clear way to account for the impacts of changing species interactions on their ability to persist. I am currently approaching this gap in knowledge through a combination of theoretical development and empirical studies. On the theoretical side, I am developing the application of coexistence theory to model species ranges and extending the theory in order to forecast the impacts of range shifts on species persistence. Complimentary to this, I am using a large-scale experimental manipulation of alpine plants across an elevation gradient to test how competitive interactions change in response to changing climate conditions, and what impact this has for persistence at broad spatial scales (i.e. range scales).

Representative publications: 

Usinowicz, J. and J.M. Levine. In Press. Species persistence under climate change: a geographic scale coexistence problem. Ecology Letters. Link to code on GitHub.

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