Change Forecasting Background

In October 2011 the BiGCB was awarded $2,499,234 from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation in support of catalyzing the startup of the BiGCB.  This Grant, which includes faculty in eight campus departments and four of the Berkeley Natural History Museums, supports seven integrated research projects focused on global change forecasting for California ecosystems. The overarching goal is to achieve an integrated analysis of fossil, historic and current data to uncover new knowledge of California ecosystems responses to environmental change, which will enable predictions of future ecosystem changes.  This will be achieve through two major research themes:

Baseline metrics of ecosystem change over time:
Current predictive models are usually based on the here and now rather than the natural dynamics of ecosystems. To address this deficiency, we will build the first quantitative picture of how the environment in California has changed over extended time periods and establish the baseline for understanding the interplay between climate and biotic change. This provides the foundation for understanding biological response to climate change. Analyzing more recent timeframes allows more sophisticated tools to be applied, promising a more detailed understanding of response to change. To this end, we will apply genomic, isotopic, and phenotypic technologies to modern and early 20th C specimens to understand how organisms respond to recent environmental change. Theoretical and modeling approaches required to predict future change will be developed to provide the framework for integrating the empirical data from the longer and shorter-term dynamical analyses. 

Ecosystem services & invasive species:
Key ecosystem services in California include watershed dynamics, carbon sequestration, and pollinator services. Our focus on watershed dynamics will include integrating ecological, physiological, and evolutionary responses, to understand response to change. Our research on carbon sequestration through the impacts of fire, will develop a broader picture of how fire regimes have affected ecosystems from pre-history to the present. Understanding how pollinator services have been modified over the past century will be unraveled by focusing on the changing dynamics between native and European bees, which is tightly coupled with disease. At the same time, invasive species represent a huge threat to California ecosystems; in agriculture alone, invasive pests cause an estimated $3 billion a year in losses to California. Our work on invasive species will integrate new biological tools and climate models with economic models to predict future impacts.

The suite of projects integrates the extraordinary breadth and depth of UC Berkeley faculty expertise in biological sciences and effectively leverages the unique resources of the Berkeley Natural History Museums and field stations. The projects address different aspects of complexity of global change relevant to central California. By establishing connections across disciplines and among our departments, colleges and research units, the larger project will foster novel research perspectives and will significantly broaden and enrich the training provided to the next generation of biologists engaged in understanding and managing biological response to rapid environmental change.