"Adaptation to a warmer climate - a macroecological perspective" by Dr Richard Walters

Past Event

23 November 2012, 5:15pm - 6:45pm

Herbertson Room, OUCE
Herbertson Room, OUCE, South Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3QY

This seminar is hosted by the Oxford Centre for Tropical Forests, an Oxford Martin School Centre

Speaker: Dr Richard Walters, University of Reading

Summary: Forecasting is regarded as an imperative if contentious tool in ecology. Models based on shifting climate envelopes provide a simple means to evaluate extinction risk but they fail to account for existing adaptations and the potential for species to adapt to future changes. For example, it is now presumed that tropical species as thermal specialists are at the greatest threat of predicted temperature changes despite being exposed to the lowest rates of climate warming. Moreover, tropical species as thermal specialists may have the least potential to adapt to future changes due to the greater eroding effects on genetic variance. However, in accordance with the ‘hotter-is-better’ hypothesis warm-adapted species are also expected to have faster generation times that could offset these disadvantages. By using the metabolic theory of ecology to parameterise the ‘critical rate of change’ we demonstrate that tropical species may be more resilient to climate warming than temperate species.

Biography: Richard Walters is an evolutionary ecologist interested in thermal adaptation and the forecasting of eco-evolutionary responses to climate change. He takes both a theoretical and empirical approach to his research by employing both analytical and agent-based simulation modelling techniques to both develop and drive predictions. His work with colleagues to date that has been conducted on a variety of arthropod systems including butterflies, dung flies, grasshoppers and spiders has addressed the role of temperature and environmental stochasticity on dispersal rate and the evolution of phenotypic plasticity in life-history traits, notably body-size. His aim is to continue this work to explicitly link genetics, physiology and population dynamics within a common modelling framework that can ultimately be used to better understand the resilience of ecological communities and predict tipping points under environmental change.

Dr Walters is now a lecturer at the University of Reading following posts as a post-doctoral researcher/research fellow at: the University of Zurich (ESF/EU ThermAdapt Programme) working on local thermal adaptation and evolution in dungflies; the University of Potsdam (ToK Marie Curie fellow) working on computer models and the issue of ecological forecasting; the University of Stockholm working on local adaptation and evolution in butterflies and at the University of Tokyo (JSPS fellow) working on local adaptation in kleptoparasitic spiders.

This seminar will be followed by drinks