Quantitative Biosciences Thesis Proposal
School of Biological Sciences
Dr. Jenny McGuire, School of Biological Sciences & School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
A Multidimensional View into the Deep Past, Present, and Future Dynamics of Mammal Biodiversity and Ecosystem Stability Across Africa
Thursday, April 2nd, 2020, 11:30 a.m.
Occurring Online Via BlueJeans (URL: https://bluejeans.com/571030131)
Dr. Lin Jiang; School of Biological Sciences, Georgia Tech
Dr. Emanuele Di Lorenzo; School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Georgia Tech
Dr. Xiuwei Zhang; School of Computational Science and Engineering, Georgia Tech
In response to accelerating anthropogenic impacts on natural systems, it is critical that we assemble stable ecosystems, or those that can persist in the face of rapid change. An ecosystem’s stability, as quantified by its ability to maintain consistent levels of plant biomass over time, is influenced by a variety of factors. These factors include the ecosystem’s associated climate, degrees of human development, and patterns of biodiversity. Biodiversity specifically is composed of several dimensions: taxonomic diversity (TD) addresses species richness; phylogenetic diversity (PD) the evolutionary relationships between species; and functional diversity (FD) the physical and behavioral traits of species. While these individual factors have been studied extensively, their interactions with each other across a broad spatial and temporal scale, and the ways in which they combine to influence ecosystem stability, are poorly understood.
The goal of this thesis is to examine the combined dynamics of multiple factors that contribute to ecosystem stability in Africa. It will use the highly biodiverse African mammal assemblages to address four aims: (1) to compare temporal trends in TD, PD, and FD over the past 7.5 million years, including their responses to climatic and human evolution events; (2) to assess how the relationship between biodiversity and climate has changed across a similar time scale; (3) to discern the combined influence of TD, PD, FD, climate, and human development on ecosystem stability today; and (4) to characterize potential routes of mammal movement across space to promote stability in the future. The ultimate objective of this thesis is to advance our knowledge of ecosystem stability. It will enhance our understanding of the features that engender stability, as well as how to foster stability in the decades to come.