Diversity increases driven by climate change and invasions

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.

Species on the Move

An International Conference Series

The conference brings together scientists and natural resource managers working in the disciplines of global change, biogeography and evolution, and relevant in contexts of natural resource management, biodiversity management and conservation, and theoretical ecology.

Species responses to climate change is a rapidly evolving research field, however, much of our progress is being made in independent research areas: e.g. understanding the process vs responding to the implications, terrestrial vs marine ecosystems, global meta-analyses vs in depth species-specific approaches. This interdisciplinary conference develops connections between these parallel streams, and across temporal and spatial scales.

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