Research Fellows Directory
Dr Tim Newbold
University College London
Biodiversity continues to be lost at an alarming pace, with the greatest threats coming from climate change and habitat loss. Scientists are only beginning to understand the consequences of this loss for the continued healthy functioning of ecosystems, and for the provision by ecosystems of the services that human well-being relies on.
Computer models can help us to understand changes in biodiversity and ecosystems, and to predict future changes under different scenarios of habitat loss and climate change. At the moment however, different models are used to understand separately the effects of climate change and land-use change, which prevents an understanding of how these different threats interact with one another. For most species and most parts of the world, we don’t know the extent to which habitat loss will make the effects of climate change worse, and vice versa. Similarly, it is unclear how trade-offs between reducing climate change and land-use change will impact biodiversity: for example, slowing the rate of climate change might not benefit biodiversity if it involves expanding oil-palm plantations, and if the creation of those plantations causes a greater loss of biodiversity (especially likely if oil-palm plantations are converted from natural vegetation) than the gain achieved through avoided climate change.
My current research aims to better combine our understanding of the effects of climate change and habitat loss on biodiversity and ecosystems, so that we can better answer the questions posed by a need to meet future demand for food – which will almost certainly require the conversion of more land to agriculture – to avoid dangerous climate change, and to prevent the continued loss of biodiversity and the effects that this has on the health of ecosystems.