The overall goal of my research programme is to establish and implement an integrated framework for understanding and predicting the responses of biodiversity to global environmental change. I will combine genomic tools with ecological research, geographical data, and modelling approaches to determine how climate change will interact with habitat loss and environmental heterogeneity to affect the future distribution, genetic composition and long-term persistence of species as a function of their adaptive potential. To achieve this, the following objectives will be met using European forest bats as a model for mammals and birds that are at risk of extinction from range and habitat loss as a result of climate and anthropogenic land use changes:
1. Assess the effect of adaptive genetic variation, range shift potential and environmental heterogeneity on population
persistence under future climate change.
2. Identify evolutionary adaptations in forest bat species with different ecological characteristics and range limits.
3. Evaluate the combined effect of climate change and anthropogenic habitat loss on the future distribution of European
4. Translate scientific findings into applied conservation management and policy recommendations.
5. Generalise research conclusions through application to other taxonomic groups and use of additional genomic tools.
Biodiversity continues to decline worldwide even though it is widely recognised that human survival and the maintenance of ecological processes rely on its effective conservation. A major challenge is to understand how biodiversity responds to global environmental change so we can predict and prepare for the effects of future conservation threats. Climate change will produce a range of new selection pressures due to rising temperatures and increased frequency of droughts and extreme events, forcing many species to move in search of suitable conditions or adapt. Anthropogenic habitat loss and land use changes are likely to intensify these pressures and limit the movement of individuals and their ability to colonise new areas. Whether species can respond to these threats depends on their sensitivity to change, their ability to adapt or adjust to new environmental conditions, their ability to move away, and the rate and magnitude of change. As species’ responses depend on a multitude of factors, studying their responses requires a combination of different tools from different research fields. The aim of this project is to establish a new way of studying the responses of biodiversity to global change by combining genetic tools with ecology, geographical data and computer modelling.