UM Scientist Contributes to Global Biodiversity Research Effort

September 21, 2018

MISSOULA – Essential Biodiversity Variables, or EBVs, were first introduced in 2013 as a framework for monitoring global biodiversity. In a paper published in Nature Ecology and Evolution on Sept. 17, a group of international researchers, including University of Montana research scientist Matthew Jones, establish a suite of species trait EBVs to monitor how species respond to global change.

As an example, measuring the variations of body size in cod could provide insights into unsustainable fish harvesting. The information is intended to inform international policy goals, including the Aichi Biodiversity Targets set by the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, of which the mission is to halt the loss of biodiversity and ensure resilient ecosystems.

UM Research Scientist Matthew Jones. (Courtesy of Matthew Jones.)“This global endeavor, with contributions from over 40 international experts, represents one critical step in a much larger United Nations effort for assessing progress toward national and international biodiversity and sustainability policy goals,” said Jones, a research scientist in UM’s W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation.

Daniel Kissling is a researcher at the University of Amsterdam and the paper’s lead author.

“Currently there is no detailed framework for the empirical derivation of most EBV,” Kissling said. “In our paper, we provide a conceptual framework with practical guidelines for building global, integrated and reusable EBV data products of species traits. This facilitates the monitoring of intra-specific trait changes in response to global change and human pressures, with the aim to use species trait information in national and international policy assessments.”

Jones said, “It is a common problem within most scientific disciplines. Although we have collected a wealth of data across projects and continents, data accessibility, compilation and standardization for comparisons across projects and geographies is a monumental task. With this effort we focused on how past data and collection of future data can be standardized, integrated and made accessible to inform national and international policy goals.”

Jones is an ecologist and remote sensing scientist who works with the Natural Resource Conservation Service’s Working Lands for Wildlife, a USDA program that improves conservation on working landscapes by collaborating with willing landowners and partners.

He was invited into the project as a specialist in remote sensing of species traits.

“Remote sensing observations from ground-based, airborne and satellite sensors can play a key role in the global effort to measure species traits,” Jones said. “These data have the potential to exponentially expand both the geographic and temporal extent of measurements, providing vital information for monitoring global biodiversity and how species are responding to global change.”

The paper is the outcome of a March 2017 workshop organized by the Global Infrastructures for Supporting Biodiversity Research (GLOBIS-B), a Horizon 2020 project funded by the European Commission.

“As a scientist you always hope your expertise and findings can contribute to a larger collective goal of informing decisions for the betterment of our society and environment,” Jones said. “This was one of those rare opportunities to do just that.”

The study can be found online at https://www.nature.com/articles/s41559-018-0667-3. More information on GLOBIS-B can be found at http://www.globis-b.eu/.

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Contact: Matthew Jones, UM research scientist, 406-243-5150, matt.jones@ntsg.umt.edu.