There are a number of competing definitions of anomalous ‘novel’ communities, either via the ‘novel ecosystem hypothesis’ derived from restoration ecology, or as ‘no-analogue’ communities, as in palaeoecology. These definitions are at least partly incompatible, are often qualitative or based on system-specific assessments, and rely on the use of human-altered communities as baseline references. In this seminar, I will talk about the design of a universal quantitative framework to detect anomalous ‘novel’ communities in time-series data. The flexibility of this framework allows it to be applied across different systems, taxa, time-scales and even across different measures of community composition (e.g., phylogenetic and functional composition). Using this framework to detect novel communities in four marine micro-invertebrates over the last 66 million years, I’ll discuss the frequency of natural novel communities prior to human development, and whether these communities maintained themselves or immediately reversed into previous states. I’ll also briefly discuss my overarching research agenda, using palaeoecological datasets to provide spatially- and temporally-replicated assessments of community change in the absence of human impacts.
Timothy Staples is a quantitative and community ecologist, and a post-doctoral research fellow at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and the University of Queensland. His research focuses on studying community composition, change and function across time and space, and across environmental gradients. He is particularly interested in establishing baseline community dynamics prior to human development, especially in long-lived organisms such as reef corals. He is also keen to more fully integrate community ecological theory developed in terrestrial systems into marine research.