Nestor E. Bosch
Thesis: Understanding spatial and temporal patterns in fish biodiversity: implications under a warmer future
There is increasing evidence of the negative effects of anthropogenic activities on the Earth's biological diversity, including indirect effects such as climate change. Globally, ocean warming is causing the redistribution of marine taxa, challenging our current knowledge of global biodiversity patterns, at the level of species (i.e. Taxonomic diversity), functions (i.e. Functional diversity) and evolutionary history (i.e. Phylogenetic diversity). The overall aim of this PhD is to understand how functional and phylogenetic diversity of reef fishes structure along different spatial scales, and how they respond to the effects of ocean warming. My aim is to understand the effects of survey methodology on the perceived spatial patterns of reef fish biodiversity in order to improve monitoring programs at large spatial scales. For this purpose, long-term continental-scale empirical data sets, collected through a range of methods will be analyse from a taxonomic, functional and phylogenetic perspective. Specifically, I aim to address the following questions:
• How does taxonomic, functional and phylogenetic diversity of fishes structure along a latitudinal gradient at an ocean basin scale?
• Are latitudinal gradients of fish taxonomic, functional and phylogenetic diversity maintained at moderate depths (e.g. from 30-100m)?
• What is the effect of ocean warming on the functional structure and diversity of reef fishes? Can we improve predictions on the scale of ecosystems using functional traits?
• How does the survey method affect different components of functional diversity? What are the implications for developing sound monitoring programs at large spatial and temporal scales?
Why my research is important
Functional and phylogenetic diversity have proved to be valuable aspects of ecological communities contributing greatly to enhance ecosystem functioning, stability and resilience. Marine fishes play key roles in controlling and mediating ecological processes, which are intrinsically related to their functional traits – i.e. behavioral, morphological or ecological characteristics that contribute to their performance. However, most of the knowledge in this field comes from terrestrial plant communities, and studies in the marine environment remain scarce. Understanding how these biodiversity components structure along different spatial scales, and how they respond to different anthropogenic activities, including the effects of ocean warming, remains a core challenge in contemporary marine conservation. Importantly, this work could provide insights into how to adapt to ongoing changes, in order to protect the breadth of species, functions and evolutionary capacity of marine communities. Thus, providing resilience to the range of associated services they provide to human societies.