Ecology and Evolution in a World of Global Change
Where we Work
Our research spans a number of focused locations throughout the world, as well as global analyses. Check out the map below to learn more about where we are most involved right now.
Assessing tropical resilience to climate change
For the past ten years, we have worked to develop a pantropical assessment of thermal heterogeneity in degraded and pristine rainforest systems. Our research is ongoing in Colombia, China, Borneo, the Philippines, Australia and Madagascar, and we are actively working to expand this network of monitoring into Africa (e.g., Gabon and the Democratic Republic of Congo). In this pantropical assessment, we examine the effects of selective logging on thermal regimes and microhabitat-thermal buffering (sampled via new thermal infrared imagery technologies) from ground to canopy (e.g. Scheffers et al. 2017 Biotropica). We intend to better understand how logging and fragmentation might synergize with novel climates in the future.
Life in the trees – the Arboreality Hypothesis
how might tree living affect animal biogeography?
We investigate multidimensional species distributions of frogs in Madagascar, Panama, and Southeast Asia and show that behavior and morphology interact (dubbed the "arboreality hypothesis") to determine spatial distributions at local scales. Interestingly, these local processes scale up to influence broad biogeographic patterns in space and time, serving as a novel dimension of biogeography (Scheffers et al 2013, Proc. Royal Soc. B.).
Thermal Landscape Ecology
Anthropogenic change is felt globally, yet varies considerably in both space and time. A central focus of our research group is exploring the intersection of thermal ecology and spatial ecology– a "hot" new topic that can improve our understanding of the interactive effects of climate change and land use change. We use mechanistic models of microclimate paired with physiological observations to make predictions of how organisms, populations, and communities response to their thermal environment, and apply theory and data to forecast the state of the environment into the future.
Assessing species vulnerability to climate change
The impact of climate change on ectotherms (organisms that rely on external sources to thermoregulate) will largely depend on their ability to find cool refuges that buffer abnormally high temperatures. Our research on microhabitats in tropical ecosystems revealed their importance in mediating extreme climatic events (Scheffers et al 2014, Biology Letters; Scheffers et al 2014, Global Change Biology). Inclusion of microhabitat buffering should improve future assessments of species vulnerability to climate change (Scheffers et al 2013, Biotropica).
Wildlife trade and its impact on biodiversity
Wildlife trade, both legal and illegal, is felt across the tree of life, and is a primary threat of global biodiversity (Scheffers et al 2019 Science). The impact of wildlife trade is not uniform across species or taxa, however. Our group explores how geography, behavior, phylogeny, and policy influence the relationships between trade and biodiversity.
Climate-induced Reorganization of Biodiversity
Although the geographical range limits of species are dynamic and fluctuate over time, climate change is impelling a universal redistribution of life on Earth. For marine, freshwater, and terrestrial species alike, the first response to changing climate is often a shift in location, to stay within preferred environmental conditions. At the cooler extremes of their distributions, species are moving poleward, whereas range limits are contracting at the warmer range edge, where temperatures are no longer tolerable. On land, species are also moving to cooler, higher elevations; in the ocean, they are moving to colder water at greater depths. Because different species respond at different rates and to varying degrees, key interactions among species are often disrupted, and new interactions develop. These idiosyncrasies can result in novel biotic communities and rapid changes in ecosystem functioning, with pervasive and sometimes unexpected consequences that propagate through and affect both biological and human communities.
Conservation of Nature
We work at the interface of nature and society to understand how human development and use of natural resources impacts not only environmental health and species, but also the livelihoods of local people and communities.