All posts by lajosy

Protecting biodiversity and ecosystem services

The many values of nature: Intrinsic value reflects the high value attributed to biodiversity (e.g. species) and ecosystem functioning, independently of human presence. Cultural value reflects the high value placed on natural heritage and traditions rooted in nature (e.g. the diversity of mushroom and plant species for gathering, heritage landscapes, nature tourism). Regulating value places high value on ecosystems that contribute to natural processes that sustain societies, such as flood control, air quality regulation, pollination, and climate regulation. (Illustrated by Dr. Camille Martinez-Almoyna)

Many countries have committed to ’30 by 30’- the goal of protecting 30% of land by 2030, but what exactly we aim to protect is still debated. Two major goals are to protect biodiversity for the sake of biodiversity (nature for nature) or to protect the biodiversity that directly benefits humans (nature for people), but few studies actually compare how these contrasting viewpoints change our priorities. Are the places in need of protection similar for biodiversity and nature’s contributions to people (NCP)?

We assembled large datasets on biodiversity (all terrestrial animals in Europe) and a set of cultural and regulating NCP across Europe, and compared the spatial overlap of resulting priority areas.

Specifically, we looked at: (i) biodiversity, represented by 785 terrestrial vertebrate species, including 124 threatened species; (ii) regulating NCP, represented by carbon sequestration, air quality regulation, flood prevention and pollination (Fig. S4); and (iii) cultural NCP, represented by heritage forests, heritage agriculture, foraging for wild foods (mushrooms and plants), and nature-based tourism.

We found that priorities are very different for biodiversity compared to NCP, and many NCP also differ from each other. Only a few small ecosystems are priorities for both (mainly in Mediterranean forests). Importantly, we also found that identifying priorities for biodiversity captures NCP much better than the reverse. If we only protect NCP, many important species would be lost.

We also identified priority areas given what is already protected by the Natura 2000 network–so candidates for expanding protection. Natura 2000 is one of the densest conservation networks in the world, covering about 20% of the EU, but it only protects 30% of the key areas for NCP, and 36% of vertebrate species distributions on average. Our results show that an additional 5% put into protection could double the current protection of vertebrate species and regulation NCP, and would protect almost 75% of threatened species distributions on average (Figure below).

Priority areas to improve the protection of vertebrate species and NCP in Europe. On the left, the coloured areas show currently unprotected sites that are essential for different nature values (orange, all species; yellow, cultural; blue, regulation). Areas of overlap between different nature values are in red. The existing Natura 2000 areas are in grey. On the right, the bar chart quantifies the area of the EU occupied by each type of priority, and areas of overlap, outside Natura 2000 areas. At the bottom right, the performance curves quantify the average representation for each value of nature as area is added, taking into account Natura 2000 areas (in grey).

The key areas identified have the potential to improve the conservation of species and NCP on a continental scale. These ecosystems are potentially home to a many terrestrial vertebrates and provide essential ecosystem services. They are irreplaceable (i.e. they contain species that are not found elsewhere) and they optimise the protection of each species and NCP in a minimum of area. Our study is a preliminary step towards a better integration of nature’s values in conservation. The designation of protected areas will depend on multiple stakeholders and on socio-economic feasibility – dimensions that we did not explore in our study, but which need to be considered. Furthermore, international coordination for nature conservation will be vital to halt the decline of global biodiversity

Contribution to Sustainable development goals

  • SDG 13: The priority areas we have identified are relevant for climate change mitigation and adaptation, as they aim to protect (among other things):
    • terrestrial ecosystems that sequester CO2
    • ecosystems that can control floods, which is relevant to climate change adaptation because extreme climate events, such as heavy rainfall, are likely to become increasingly frequent and unpredictable.
  • SDG 15: We identify ecosystems that are essential for the survival of terrestrial vertebrate species. Protecting these areas may prevent extinctions of terrestrial vertebrate species.
  • SDG 17: Our results confirm the importance of international coordination to conserve species and NCP at the European scale. 

See the article here

adieu la france, bonjour le canada

So, I’m incredibly excited (and a little heartbroken!) to be finally leaving France and completing my full circle around the globe to end up back in North America. I’ll be starting as Asst. Professor in the Biology department at McGill University in Montreal this summer.

It’s been an amazing journey and my life has been so enriched by so many amazing friends and collaborators. I have been especially fortunate to have amazing supervisors that gave me the patience and time I needed to keep going in science despite life constantly getting in the way.

In training for Canada..

I’m very excited about this next step. Quebec is a hub (epicentre? 🙂 for biodiversity science with hundreds of researcher doing cutting edge biodiversity research and key organisations such as the Quebec Centre for Biodiversity Science.

Plus, Montreal is quantifiably a super cool city, voted both the best city for students and having the coolest neighbourhood in the world. So come visit!

To students, I will be recruiting for Master and PhD projects soon, but feel free to contact me if you have something in mind..








A great surprise to end a rollercoaster year


To cap off a crazy year, it was a fabulous surprise to find out that we won a Research Prize for our nature paper- the La Recherche Prix 2017 for the Environment category. La Recherche is a popular science magazine (similar to the New Scientist). Thanks to La Recherche for a great honour and a lovely awards ceremony and cocktail. And the biggest surprise of all- W. Thuiller in a collared shirt!

Where in the world is the unprotected diversity? New paper out in Nature










natureimage1worldphylo-001.jpegThe world’s biodiversity is in crisis. Species are declining at an alarming rate. And this is happening at just the time we are really beginning to understand this diversity through an unprecedented cataloging and compiling of information. Data repositories are filled with hundreds of thousands of entries about species, where they live, how they live, and who they are related to. And this is only the beginning. New DNA-based surveys are exploding onto the scene and our ideas and understanding of biodiversity are improving everyday.

So when and how do we use this burgeoning knowledge of biodiversity in biodiversity conservation?

We take a stab at this question in our recent paper out in Nature by analysing the world’s bird and mammal diversity from a conservation perspective. We ask how much of the world’s bird and mammal diversity is currently protected and how much better we could do if protected areas were to be expanded. We consider diversity to be not only species, but also phylogenetic and functional diversity. The use of these types of diversity means we have a better chance of meeting big policy goals of preserving biodiversity that benefits humans and ecosystems than with a sole focus on species. Continue reading Where in the world is the unprotected diversity? New paper out in Nature

Climate change threatens eucalypt diversity

We have a new paper out in Nature Climate Change that combines Species Distribution Models (SDMs), climate change and phylogenetic diversity metrics. This is very exciting as it is the first paper from our PD working group.


Some highlights:

-We explore the effect of climate change on various PD metrics (including endemism-based metrics) for all eucalypts across Australia. Eucalypts are stand dominants in many forests across the continent and are also of course inherently awesome.

-We present the first complete phylogenetic tree for eucalypts (657 species)

-We include SDMs for dispersal and no-dispersal scenarios for all species for the present and future projections (more on the models soon..)

-The results?  Overall, there is a loss of PD within cells as well as between cells- so an increasingly homogenous PD landscape. Rare, ancient lineages are the most impacted, and some areas, such as the Kimberley Region will likely be increasingly important refugia for PD. The southern coastline is an important reservoir of both ‘old’ and ‘young’ lineages. This distinction is important as we might value old and young lineages for different reasons from a conservation perspective.

See more here..

And ABC news article..

Also see post by Heini Kujala

And the press release

And even a song about it! 






The tangled past of eucalypt communities

After a long road, that began with a comment, ‘Of course related eucalypts don’t coexist, most of them are distributed allopatrically, and if they do re-mix, they will hybridise anyway’..  followed by many years of field-work, lab work, running models, revisions, more revisions, even more revisions..  we came to the conclusion, that indeed, evolutionary history probably explains why closely related species don’t co-occur.

Ecology is also important. Species in plots tend to have similar trait values (especially specific leaf area). One cool thing about a model-based approach is that we can estimate how much different factors influence co-occurrence and we can detect interactions- e.g. similar species co-occur unless they hybridise. The negative effect of reproductive compatibility was nearly as strong as the positive effect of having similar traits.

See more here