April 16, 2019 - Coming to terms with changing nature

Great Explorations at UTSC with Guest Speaker Marc William Cadotte

Marc Cadotte Professor Urban Forest Conservation Biology

Abstract: Change is the one constant in our world. Our families have been defined by it, we look forward to it and we also fear it. Yet despite the fact that change is so ubiquitous, the world is undergoing unprecedented levels of change and is changing in ways never before seen. This change is driven by large numbers of people and changing technologies, and the impact of this change is an altered and depauperate natural world with a reduced capacity to sustain us. Despite these consequences of global change, there are opportunities to utilize change to benefit the natural world. Changes in public perceptions of nature and recognition of its importance have given way to new ways of striking a balance between the natural world and our own needs and desires. The possibilities of positive change can be best seen with the fundamental shift in how we view nature in cities.

Marc Cadotte, TD Professor of Urban Forest Conservation and Biology

Research Interests: The world around us is an amazingly diverse and rich place, but at the same time this diversity is being lost through human activities. I am broadly interested in the ecological and evolutionary mechanisms generating patterns of species diversity and in applying this understanding to conservation issues.

Community productivity - Work done so far has shown that patterns of community productivity seem to be partially explained by the amount of evolutionary history in communities (Cadotte et al. 2008 PNAS; Cadotte et al. 2009 PLoS ONE). That is, communities containing closely related species tend to produce less biomass than communities containing more distantly-related species. We are currently running large plant diversity experiments at Jokers Hill to test the influences of evolutionary history on ecosystem function.

Community assembly and coexistence - If indeed phylogenetic distances represent some broad niche differences, then mechanisms of community assembly should be reflected in community phylogenetic patterns. We are looking at patterns of phylogenetic turnover across diversity gradients in Northern California and in alvar habitats in Ontario. Further, we are exploring if exotic community assembly follows similar patterns as for native communities.We are also using laboratory microbial communities to test hypotheses about the role for species similarities and differences in generating diversity patterns.

Patterns of species invasions - A broad area of research has been to search for generalities of biological invasions. We are using phylogenetic patterns to test whether species relatedness predicts invader success (Cadotte et al. 2009 Div & Dist). Further, we are asking what evolutionary novelties or events have lead to lineages with increased invasion propensity.

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