Incorporating ecological processes into biodiversity projections through metacommunity modelling

Karel Mokany (1), Alex Bush (2), Tom Harwood (3), David Westcott (4), Simon Ferrier (5)

1 CSIRO Land & Water, PO Box 1700, ACT, 2601,

2 CSIRO Land & Water, PO Box 1700, ACT, 2601,

3 CSIRO Land & Water, PO Box 1700, ACT, 2601,

4 CSIRO Land & Water, Tropical Forest Research Centre, PO Box 780, Atherton, Qld, 4883,

5 CSIRO Land & Water, PO Box 1700, ACT, 2601,

Biodiversity outcomes under global change will be influenced by a range of ecological processes, and these processes are increasingly being considered in models of biodiversity change. However, the level of model complexity required to adequately account for important ecological processes often remains unclear. Here we assess the degree to which considering realistically complex ecological processes alters our understanding of likely future outcomes for biodiversity and the most appropriate management responses. Recently developed macroecological modelling techniques were applied to project current and future plant diversity for both Tasmania and the Australian Wet Tropics, incorporating complex dispersal processes, genetic adaptation to changing environments, and community assembly processes. These analyses indicate that accounting for complex ecological processes can substantially change projections of the future status of biodiversity under global change scenarios, and result in different biodiversity management approaches being identified as most beneficial in retaining biodiversity. The outcomes of ecological interactions and processes are often complex and difficult to model, yet our findings highlight the importance of accounting for such complexities if we are to improve our capacity to understand and respond to the influence of global change on biodiversity.

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