Prof Chris Thomas1
1University of York, York, United Kingdom
Climate change and biological invasions are two of the biggest drivers of distribution changes in the Anthropocene. We discuss how both processes are generating increased species richness in many regions. We find that local plant species richness has increased the most in parts of the world where the climate has changed most rapidly, and an analysis of UK data indicates that biological invasions are increasing both local and regional plant diversity. The new arrivals (and residents) are then engaging in novel interactions, which is driving evolutionary diversification, including new hybrid species. The plant speciation rate may (possibly) be the highest in the history of plant evolution. These empirical observations highlight the importance of incorporating biological ‘gains’ when reporting of biodiversity trends, and not equating change with loss.
Chris Thomas is Director of the Leverhulme Centre for Anthropocene Biodiversity, a new 10 year programme based at the University of York, in England. Chris has worked on the impacts of habitat change, fragmentation, climate change and species invasions on the distributions, diversity and evolution of species. He is today primarily interested in understanding the ecological and evolutionary processes that are driving diversity biological ‘gains’ in the Anthropocene, since it is biological ‘winners’ that will ultimately populate the future Earth. He develops this theme in his recent book ‘Inheritors of the Earth: How Nature is Thriving in an Age of Extinction.’ Chris has written a few hundred scientific papers, he is a Fellow of the Royal Society in the UK, and he is currently President of the Royal Entomological Society; but today he is only going to talk about insect food. He presentation is on plant diversity changes.