Time to better integrate paleoecological research infrastructures with neoecology to improve understanding of biodiversity long-term dynamics and to inform future conservation
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionEnvironmental Research Letters. 2021, 16, 095005. 10.1088/1748-9326/ac1b59
Anthropogenic pressures are causing a global decline in biodiversity. Successful attempts at biodiversity conservation requires an understanding of biodiversity patterns as well as the drivers and processes that determine those patterns. To deepen this knowledge, neoecologists have focused on studying present-day or recent historical data, while paleoecologists usually study long-term data through the composition of various biological proxies and environmental indicators. By establishing standard protocols or gathering databases, research infrastructures (RIs) have been instrumental to foster exchange and collaboration among scientists within neoecology (e.g. Global Information Biodiversity Facility or National Ecological Observatory Network) and paleoecology (e.g. Paleobiology Database, Neotoma Paleoecology Database or European Pollen Database). However, these two subdisciplines (and their RIs) have traditionally remained segregated although both provide valuable information that combined can improve our understanding of biodiversity drivers and underlying processes, as well as our predictions of biodiversity responses in the future. For instance, integrative studies between paleo- and neoecology have addressed the global challenge of biodiversity loss by validating climate and ecological models, estimating species fundamental niches, understanding ecological changes and trajectories, or establishing baseline conditions for restoration. Supporting and contributing to research infrastructures from both paleo- and neoecology, as well as their further integration, could boost the amount and improve the quality of such integrative studies. We argue this will enable improved capabilities to anticipate the impacts of global change and biodiversity losses. To boost such integration and illustrate our arguments, we (1) review studies integrating paleo- and neoecology to advance in the light of global changes challenge, (2) describe RIs developed in paleoecology, and (3) discuss opportunities for further integration of RIs from both disciplines (i.e. paleo- and neoecology).