On the Edge of (Co-)Existence: Fate of Diversity in Human-Modified Forests

Event Type: Seminar

Date: 6 April 2021, 13:00 to 15:00

About the Event

We live in a human-dominated Earth. Human activities have led to many terrestrial habitats being broken into smaller parcels where ecological communities lose diversity. Such patterns of diversity loss have been widely documented in forest fragments. Yet, we know surprisingly little about how fragments do in terms of the mechanisms that maintain diversity. In plant communities, pests and pathogens—natural enemies—help maintain plant diversity. These effects are especially strong during the early life-stages of seedling establishment and survival, but its imprint lasts through many generations. In a human-modified forest, I found that enemies such as insects and fungi are less able to maintain diversity of tree seedlings near forest edges compared to interiors. Weaker effects of enemies also changed the functional characteristics of recruiting seedlings. Simulations using this field data show that loss of loss of seedling diversity can compromise the long-term ability of fragments to maintain diversity. With nearly 20% of the world’s forests being within 100 m of an edge, loss of cryptic biotic interactions pose a widespread threat to maintaining plant diversity. Mechanistic insights that combine ecological theory with observation and experiment can help better predict the trajectories of human-modified ecosystems.

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The recorded version of this live webinar is now available for viewing.

About the Speaker

Meghna Krishnadas

Meghna Krishnadas is an ecologist and my research stems from a curiosity to understand the mechanisms that maintain diversity in ecosystems. In any ecological community made up of similar species, what processes allow species to coexist and hence maintain diversity? What prevents one or few species from out-competing the others? Also, living in a world with one species (us) so dominant, she wants to understand how the mechanisms of diversity change when subject to human influence. In a different life past, Meghna was a medical doctor, but she left the hospital halls to walk the forest trails. Her transition to ecology began with the realization that biodiversity was being lost at alarming rates. She went from activist to scientist because she felt that knowledge was essential to action, but was also increasingly driven by sheer intellectual curiosity about the complexity of the natural world around us. Meghna is currently at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) and works at the Laboratory for Conservation of Endangered Species (LaCONES). Visit her website at thecafelab.weebly.com.


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