Ecological forecasting

Mechanistic models and statistical projections lead to vastly different predictions into the future (see Tonkin et al., 2019, Nature).

Our research is increasingly forward looking. We develop models to forecast how biodiversity will respond to unprecedented changes associated with climate change, as well as how human intervention might influence biodiversity in a future world. Mechanistic models are one tool for this approach (see population models), particularly if looking over the longer-term. However, other approaches exist to predict near-term dynamics, particularly where mechanistic data are lacking. For instance, hybrid models can leverage the availability of both mechanistic and correlative data, including integrated population models, hierarchical models, and inverse modelling approaches. These approaches ‘borrow strength’, fill gaps, and fuse data to get the best from different forms of data. Over the coming years, we will be employing many of these approaches to forecast biodiversity responses to novel environmental change, particularly for Antarctic species, as part of the Antarctic Science Platform.

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Jonathan Tonkin
Senior Lecturer & Rutherford Discovery Fellow

Publications

Prepare river ecosystems for an uncertain future

As the climate warms, we can’t restore waterways to pristine condition, but models can predict potential changes, argue Jonathan D. …

Increasing drought favors nonnative fishes in a dryland river: Evidence from a multispecies demographic model

Understanding how novel biological assemblages are structured in relation to dynamic environmental regimes remains a central challenge …

Flow regime alteration degrades ecological networks in riparian ecosystems

Riverine ecosystems are governed by patterns of temporal variation in river flows. This dynamism will change due to climate change and …

High mortality and enhanced recovery: Modelling the countervailing effects of disturbance on population dynamics

Disturbances cause high mortality in populations while simultaneously enhancing population growth by improving habitats. These …

Linking river flow regimes to riparian plant guilds: A community-wide modeling approach

Modeling riparian plant dynamics along rivers is complicated by the fact that plants have different edaphic and hydrologic requirements …