Climate change, plant ecology and conservation: a case study of the SF Bay Area [Thurs, Nov 5]

Climate change is expected to profoundly impact terrestrial vegetation, and the mechanisms, rate and extent of change will influence biodiversity conservation and the ecological functions of natural ecosystems. The San Francisco Bay Area has steep climate gradients and rugged topography, supporting a wide range of natural habitats. Using a novel application of multinomial logistic regression, we have modeled the projected impacts of climate change on Bay Area vegetation. Model projections are evaluated over a wide range of possible future climates, allowing us to evaluate sensitivity of vegetation to changing climate, without choosing specific future climate scenarios. Sensitivity is highly variable across the Bay Area. Perhaps surprisingly, sensitivity to climate change is modeled to be greater on north-facing slopes and cooler locations. The model projections are best interpreted as the long-term equilibrium response to a particular degree of climate change, but they do not provide insight into how fast this equilibrium will be achieved or the transient states that may occur in response to rapid climate change. We combine model results with a discussion of the ecological mechanisms of vegetation change to better understand the challenges raised by disequilibrium dynamics and the implications for conservation biology in coming decades.

Dr. David D. Ackerly
Department of Integrative Biology
University of California, Berkeley


Protecting and predicting genetic diversity of whole communities – a case study of Hawaiian reefs

Conservation strategies increasingly call for preserving areas of high genetic diversity. This shift necessitates a look beyond single-species studies toward methods to predict and map community-level trends in genetic diversity. Theory suggests that genetic diversity primarily responds to habitat area and isolation, but ecology particular to each species nevertheless modify spatial patterns across co-distributed species. The balance and sources of convergent and divergent forces shaping genetic diversity of a community are largely unexplored.  With data for 47 reef species sampled across 16 Hawaiian Islands, we test a suite of hypotheses about drivers of biodiversity with a novel metric representing the emergent genetic diversity of the community. Results reassuringly support foundational theory on the relationship of diversity to habitat, but also suggest intriguing eco-genetic feedbacks and concerning signs that thermal stress has effected the genetic resilience of the whole reef community. I discuss the implications of these results for managing and protecting genetic diversity at the community level.

Kimberley Selkoe

Center Associate, NCEAS, UCSB /
Associate Research Biologist, Marine Science Institute, UCSB


Do synthesis centers produce novel, potentially transformative research? Research publication diversity as an indicator of novelty and transformative capacity


a few of the topics that emerged in our analysis

For this Roundtable, I will present a poster that I presented at the recent AAAS meeting in San Jose. The project is an outgrowth of a working group jointly supported by NCEAS and NESCent and led by Ed Hackett and John Parker. Please read the abstract below for a bit of background, and then come prepared to discuss how you think academic publications (including yours!) produced through synthesis center work might be measurably different from other publications in the field. Then we’ll see if your intuitions are supported by the data we have available. Prepare yourselves to either be really proud of your keen intuitions, or to be surprised by our results!


You can access the poster on figshare using this link:

Update: To initiate discussion prior to the meeting, I’ve put a question up on Tricider, and I welcome you to use the link below to add your ideas, comment on others’ ideas, and/or vote on the ideas that have been suggested. The question is the following:

“How would you expect academic publications that report on synthesis research to differ from publications resulting from other research approaches?”
Here is the link:
Synthesis is an emerging synthetic method for producing transformative research, and publications centers to promote synthesis are on the rise in the US and around the world. New analytic tools and techniques are needed to assess the originality and transformative potential of synthesis. We propose that research outputs produced within synthesis centers will exhibit distinctive qualities that distinguish them from other publications in their fields. To explore this possibility, we conducted a topical analysis of titles, abstracts, and keywords for approximately 400,000 articles published in 108 leading journals from the fields of Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, Biodiversity Conservation, Forestry, and Fisheries. We then described each document as a proportional combination of the discovered topics, and used the Rao-Stirling heuristics to estimate, for each document, various measures that illuminate contrasting aspects of diversity (i.e. variety, balance, and disparity). We then compare diversity metrics for the synthesis center documents with those for all other documents in our corpus to evaluate whether and how the measured diversity of synthesis center publications differs from that of other publications in the relevant fields.