Geodiversity and its effects on shifts in species distributions and biodiversity

Dr Phoebe Zarnetske1, Dr Annie Cooper Smith1, Dr Kyla Dahlin1, Dr Sydne Record2

1Michigan State University, East Lansing, United States, 2Bryn Mawr College, Bryn Mawr, United States

Climate and land use change are affecting the geographic distributions of species, compositions of ecological communities, and patterns of biodiversity. In addition to species’ physiological tolerances, biotic interactions, and dispersal, species-environment relationships are central to anticipating the ecological effects of climate change. However, geodiversity—the variation in Earth’s abiotic processes and features within the lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and cryosphere—is rarely incorporated explicitly into models predicting the effects of climate and land use change on species distributions. Conservationists have proposed preserving geodiversity because variable environments that include rare habitats are likely to support more unique biota. Quantifying the influence of geodiversity on different dimensions of biodiversity and taxonomic groups is necessary to guide appropriate selection of geodiversity variables, and to identify geodiverse regions that could buffer species against changes in climate and land use. We computed and assessed a range of spatial scale-dependent geodiversity measures across the continental United States from NASA satellite remotely-sensed products. We found important scale-dependent differences in biodiversity-geodiversity relationships across dimensions of biodiversity (taxonomic, functional, and phylogenetic diversity), for birds and trees. We present a framework for incorporating geodiversity into models forecasting the effects of climate and land use change, from individual species to dimensions of biodiversity.


Dr. Phoebe Zarnetske is spatial and community ecologist and Assistant Professor, jointly appointed in the Departments of Forestry, and Fisheries and Wildlife at Michigan State University, Michigan, USA. Her research program uses a combination of observational data, experiments, and modeling to connect observed patterns of biodiversity and community composition with underlying mechanisms. Specifically, she investigates how the composition and geographic distribution of species and ecological communities are affected by biotic interactions, species invasions, ​biophysical feedbacks, geodiversity, climate change, and land use change.  She works across scales from warming experiments in early successional fields and small pond communities to continental and global-scale spatial analyses with birds, trees, macroinvertebrates, and mammals.

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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