First in-person conference 2022

First in-person conference 2022

We are back on stage! Joining the 10th Biennial Conference of the International Biogeography Society in Vancouver, Canada, my PhD students and I had finally the opportunity to present our research. As a hybrid conference, all talks are available online.

IBS 2022 Vancouver: Nicholas Wei Cheng Tan: A global analysis of habitat change research in reptiles and amphibians

Habitat change and fragmentation is the primary cause of biodiversity loss worldwide. Recent decades have seen a surge of funding, published papers, and citations in the field as current threats to biodiversity continue to rise. However, how research directions and agendas are evolving in this field is still poorly understood. In this study, we examined the current state of research on the most threatened groups of vertebrates, reptiles, and amphibians. We did so by conducting a global scale review of geographical and taxonomical trends regarding habitat change (agriculture, logging, fragmentation, urbanization, and roads) and the associated sampling methods and response variables. We reveal a number of biases, in particular, that existing research efforts are characterized by distinct continents (e.g. North America, Europe, and Australia) and study groups (e.g. amphibians) and a surplus of studies measuring species richness and abundance with seemingly contradictory results. However, we found a recent shift in the research agenda towards studies utilizing technological advancements including genetic and spatial data analyses. Our results suggest important associations between sampling methods and the response variables measured which are commonly used in explaining the effects of different types of habitat change. Increased research investment with appropriate sampling techniques is crucial in biodiversity hotspots such as the tropics where unprecedented threats to herpetofauna exist.

IBS 2022 Vancouver: Philipp Ginal: Mechanistic SDMs and connectivity models

One main threat promoting the worldwide amphibian decline is the introduction of non-indigenous amphibians, like the African Clawed Frog Xenopus laevis, which is now one of the widest distributed amphibian occurring on five continents with ongoing expansion including large parts of Europe. Different types of statistical models can be useful tools in invasion biology. Species Distribution Models (SDMs) and the concept of ecological niche are essential to predict the invasive risk of those species, while connectivity models can be used to reconstruct past dispersal routes or to highlight areas of risk for future invasion. On a macroecological scale, we used mechanistic SDMs to predict the potential distribution for X. laevis across Europe. Based on physiological performance trials we calculated size and temperature depending response surfaces, which were scaled to the species’ range matching the critical thermal limits. Theseecophysiological performance layers were used in a standard correlative SDM framework to predict the potential distribution in South Africa and Europe. We found thermal performance differed significantly among native and invasive populations indicating some degree of fundamental niche change, which lead to different potential distribution patterns for the native and invasive populations in the respective ranges. Furthermore, on a local scale, we used connectivity models based on remote-sensing derived resistance kernels to reconstruct the X. laevis invasion for Portugal and identified several areas, which might be corridors for future invasion risk.

IBS 2022 Vancouver: André Vincente Liz: Diversification cradles in the Sahara-Sahel: contrasting evolutionary histories in functional groups urges a reassessment of priority conservation zones

The Sahara-Sahel Desert presents distinct bioclimatic and phytogeographical regions, where desert communities aggregate in localized biodiversity hotspots that arose from historical eco-evolutionary processes. These hotspots may differ across functional groups, due to the variable biogeographical affinities of desert taxa. The current characterization of hotspots is based on assessments at the species level (e.g., endemism richness) and lacks information on intra-specific genetic variability, despite its crucial importance for species persistence. Herein, we infer diversification cradles across the Sahara-Sahel taking into account differences in species habitat requirements. Phylogenetic diversity was mapped for well-sampled representatives of mesic and xeric desert taxa across the study area. Main diversification cradles were located in mountain areas and low sand-dune fields for mesic and xeric taxa, respectively. Mountain cradles match with the main potential mesic refugia for the ongoing climate crisis. Further studies on the barely-known Central Sahara highlands are needed to understand the magnitude of their regional diversity, even if they are already included in conservation strategies. On the contrary, xeric cradles remain ignored in conservation planning, due to the presumed low ecological diversity of sand-dune ecosystems. Xeric cradles may be particularly threatened by global warming, as species occur close to their physiological limits, and human pressures, including the expansion of extractive activities, green energy and agro-forestry. Thereby, we call for an urgent need to consider xeric diversification cradles in conservation planning. The location of diversification cradles in the Sahara-Sahel largely overlaps with inaccessible areas subjected to long-lasting conflicts, which greatly constrains research and conservation efforts.

IBS 2022 Vancouver: Dennis Rödder: Climate change drives mountain butterflies towards the summits

Climate change impacts biodiversity and is driving range shifts of species and populations across the globe. To understand the effects of climate warming on biota, long-term observations of the occurrence of species and detailed knowledge of their ecology and life-history is crucial. Mountain species particularly suffer under climate warming and often respond to environmental changes by altitudinal range shifts. We assessed long-term distribution trends of mountain butterflies across the eastern Alps and calculated species’ specific annual range shifts based on field observations and species distribution models, counterbalancing the potential drawbacks of both approaches. We also compiled details on the ecology, behavior and life history, and the climate niche of each species assessed. We found that the highest altitudinal maxima were observed recently in the majority of cases, while the lowest altitudes of observations were recorded before 1980. Mobile and generalist species with a broad ecological amplitude tended to move uphill more than specialist and sedentary species. As main drivers, we identified climatic conditions and topographic variables, such as insolation and solar irradiation. This study provides important evidence for the responses of high mountain taxa to rapid climate change. Our study underlines the advantage of combining historical surveys and museum collection data with cutting-edge analyses.

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