Marooned on the Houtman Abrolhos

Within a global biodiversity hotspot, one of the highest latitude true coral reefs in the world, the oldest European structure in Australia, a rich and colourful marine environment, perhaps the most infamous murderous mutiny in marine history, intensive human destruction of habitat and still little known to the most of the world, the Houtman AbrolhosContinue reading “Marooned on the Houtman Abrolhos”

How did ant communities assemble on reservoir islands?

From curiosity to community assembly: how a birder’s frustration opened the door to a new journey of discovery about taxonomic, functional, and phylogenetic diversity of ants on islands. When I started my Ph.D. career and went to the Thousand Island Lake (TIL) to do fieldwork for the first time in 2014, I was attracted toContinue reading “How did ant communities assemble on reservoir islands?”

A deep dive on ecoregions

Ecoregions are central to global modeling of earth systems & development of conservation plans. There is great variability across taxonomic groups and regions of the world in how strongly ecoregions described community composition. Two years ago, a team of us published a study entitled ‘A global test of ecoregions’ (Smith et al., 2018). In thatContinue reading “A deep dive on ecoregions”

Different evolutionary routes to becoming diversity hotspots

How to tease apart the evolutionary mechanisms underlying global biodiversity patterns. A major question in evolution and ecology is why biodiversity is so unevenly distributed on Earth. This geographic pattern of global diversity has been extensively analyzed in plants and vertebrates, and has been suggested to be attributed to climatic and topographic variables. However, environmentalContinue reading “Different evolutionary routes to becoming diversity hotspots”

The forgotten giants of the Western Indian Ocean reefs

Giant clams have long fascinated adventurers and naturalists. These large shallow-water molluscs certainly are among the most colourful, conspicuous and emblematic species of the Indo-Pacific coral reefs. They have been exploited for thousands of years for their flesh and shell. Giant clam conservation is also an increasingly concerning issue because of the vulnerability of giantContinue reading “The forgotten giants of the Western Indian Ocean reefs”

What goes on below?

The above-ground diversity of plants in the Cape Floristic Region is legion.  But what about arthropods?  And what about below-ground? Several years ago at the start of my postgraduate research training and career, I was part of a team of researchers from Stellenbosch University who were fascinated simply by how life works and how itContinue reading “What goes on below?”

Niche filling dynamics in the Australian Wet Tropics

How to tease apart the mechanisms behind patterns of diversity in the wild. A major challenge in ecology and evolution is to unravel the processes that generate and maintain the uneven distribution of life on Earth. A common approach is to regress species richness, the number of species counted at a place, on variables representingContinue reading “Niche filling dynamics in the Australian Wet Tropics”

Why some taxa are more species-rich towards higher latitudes

How niche conservatism in colonizing and sedentary species shape a latitudinal gradient. Niche conservatism has often been used as an elegant explanation for why there are more species in the tropics—i.e. most taxa originated in the tropics, had more time to diversify therein, and tended to retain ancestral climatic affinities making range shifts out ofContinue reading “Why some taxa are more species-rich towards higher latitudes”

A worldwide tour of grasses; using herbaria for ecological research

Grasses are extremely cosmopolitan in distribution and comprise one of the largest biomes on Earth. They are important carbon stores, account for large amounts of terrestrial primary productivity, are home to much of the worlds mammalian diversity and contribute to the livelihoods of an estimated one fifth of the world population. Grasslands are culturally, economicallyContinue reading “A worldwide tour of grasses; using herbaria for ecological research”

Urban invaders

How efforts to understand diversity in urban areas could change perceptions of biodiversity in cities and increase green spaces. Studies about community assembly typically focus on local community properties along natural-rural-urban gradients and neglect regional processes. As such, it remains unclear which functional traits are filtered when going from a regional pool of potential colonistsContinue reading “Urban invaders”