Global extinction rates have soared over the past century, due predominantly to the resource demands of a burgeoning human population. Shifting land use, wildlife exploitation, and elevated rates of competition and predation by invasive organisms have reduced the range and abundance of many species.
Dr Damien Fordham, an ARC Future Fellow working in the University’s Environment Institute, conducts research focused on the causes and consequences of extinction. His approach is innovative in that it marries quantitative ecology, evolutionary biology, climatology and palaeontology in forecasts of species’ distributional range changes, extinction risks and climate change impacts.
Damien’s particular area of expertise is the development of models that integrate demographic, physiological and evolutionary processes to better anticipate the likelihood of at-risk species and communities being eliminated. These predictive tools can then be used to better design and implement effective conservation strategies.
Researchers across the globe are now adopting the conservation modelling approaches and tools that Damien has developed. For example, his modelling of the combined effects of climate change, prey availability and management intervention is being used to develop conservation strategies for the Iberian lynx in Spain and Portugal. One of Europe’s last top mammalian predators, the species constitutes the world’s most threatened cat, and the European Union has spent more money on it (€94 million since 1994, and €31 million since 2002) than any other European species of conservation concern.
“Through my interactions with world-class academics at the University,” he says, “I have been able to develop a wide network of international and national collaborators in research areas ranging from conservation and evolutionary biology to climate science and paleoecology.
“The establishment of this network has helped provide me with the multi-disciplinary skill set needed to generate world-leading research on the ecological consequences of global change.”