Global Patterns of Biodiversity & Protection
The question of why species occur where they do has long fascinated scientists. Is it climate, history, some unknown factor? It also has important consequences for applied conservation. Knowledge of where biodiversity concentrates, and what leads to species diversity, is crucial for guiding conservation planning.
Understanding the patterns of diversity and their causes has become more pressing with the current extinction crisis. From birds to mammals, invasive plants to ants, I've had a long-term research program into patterns of biodiversity and how that knowledge can inform conservation. The tools are varied, from global climate models to advanced remote sensing technologies of Lidar and scatterometers. The applied aspect of this research most recently developed into a global assessment of the world's protected areas and our progress to the 2010 Biodiversity Goal (the 10% goal). See the latest results in Biological Conservation and a related news story at Mongabay.
The most recent branch of this research has been a quest to map the world's ant diversity, producing the first ever global map for a major insect taxon.
The Loreto region of Peru is among the most biologically diverse places on the planet, is home to a wide variety of indigenous peoples, and is mostly intact Amazonian forests. In collaboration with the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) and the Peruvian organization Derecho, Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (DAR), the Sustainable Loreto project aims to secure a sustainable future for the biodiversity and people of Loreto. This truly interdisciplinary effort involves biologists, GIS experts, legal experts and others, all joined in an effort to chart a positive future for this largely undeveloped region.
Oil, Conservation, and the Western Amazon
The Western Amazon is one of the most diverse areas in the world, both biologically and ethnically. It is an astounding, and mostly unknown, part of the planet. Oil and gas development though, combined with massive plans for transportation and energy infrastructure, are major threats to the biodiversity and peoples living there. Through an interdisciplinary study of biodiversity, environmental and development policy, and remote sensing, this research program aims to understand and help eliminate threats to the Western Amazon.
Recent papers from this research include:
Global Conservation Significance of Ecuador’s Yasuní National Park. PLoS ONE.
Oil & Gas Projects in the Western Amazon: Threats to Wilderness, Biodiversity, & Indigenous Peoples.PLoS ONE
More information , including downloadable datasets, can be found at http://westernamazon.org
Brazilian Atlantic Forest
The Brazilian Atlantic Forest, or Mata Atlântica as it is known locally, is one of the world's great biodiversity hotspots. It is a place of exceptional levels of endemism but also habitat loss, creating a center of species extinctions.
For more then ten years, I have been active in research, conservation, and teaching in the Atlantic Forest. Using a mix of species distribution modeling, primarily of birds, and knowledge from conservation groups in the region, my colleagues and I have identified several priority areas for expansion of protected areas. Much of my research activity is centered in Rio de Janeiro, home to more endangered birds than any other place in the continental Americas. OK, it also has fabulous beaches, great parties, and is generally an amazing place, but that's just coincidence.