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COMPLEX TIME: Adaptation, Aging, & Arrow of Time

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Population and the Environment: Analytical Demography and Applied Population Ethics/Co-evolution of population and environment - anthropogenic change & biodiversity

From Complex Time

October 16, 2018
2:40 pm - 3:35 pm


Andy Rominger (SFI)


Human activities are often seen as detrimental to biodiversity. We will explore the science and sociology behind this narrative. We will both delve into the math behind extrapolations of species diversity and loss, and illuminate the shortcomings of the false dichotomy between humans and nature. Predicting biodiversity loss in ecology and conservation biology has historically been viewed through the lens of direct population destruction, habitat loss, and climate change. Habitat area has plays a key role in biodiversity theories as area mediates population size and is affected by all forms of habitat destruction including climate change. Thus we will focus heavily on theories of how biodiversity responds to changes in area. Predictions of biodiversity loss have failed to consider biases scientists bring to such predictions. We will therefore explore how presumptions about species interactions and human-nature relationships, largely dating to the Victorian era, have limited insight into biodiversity dynamics and conservation.    

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Post-meeting Reflection

Andy Rominger (SFI) Link to the source page

This has been a great meeting with many good ideas and excellent people. I was left with several thoughts: populations in wealthier countries have lower fertility: why? This was from Mary's talk and is really fascinating. In particular I wonder how economic pressures versus cultural pressures drive this. In my very naive view I can mostly think of cultural reasons--cultural pressures that empower women and change symbols of status away from family size for example; and the economic pressures would seem to work in the opposite direction: it should be economically easier to have more children in wealthy countries, connecting to observations Partha presented earlier. And yet, Mary's work points to economic drivers being more statistically supported--I'll be excited to engage with her findings more. Also, again born of my ignorance on the subject, I wondered when we speak of morality around populations, how do we avoid arguments that facilitate (while not explicitly being) eugenic views on who should reproduce and who should not? If evolution drives populations to higher fitness can fitness maximization be a moral construct?

Reference Material

Keil et al. (2015) Nature Communications: derives the best math for calculating species loss under habitat loss.

Mendenhall et al. (2014) Nature: shows how human use of landscapes does not render them devoid of biodiversity and the consequences there of for conservation.

Title Author name Source name Year Citation count From Scopus. Refreshed every 5 days. Page views Related file
Predicting biodiversity change and averting collapse in agricultural landscapes Chase D. Mendenhall, Daniel S. Karp, Christoph F.J. Meyer, Elizabeth A. Hadly, Gretchen C. Daily Nature 2014 202 22
On the decline of biodiversity due to area loss Petr Keil, David Storch, Walter Jetz Nature Communications 2015 39 5