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Darwin’s experience as a natural historian contributed greatly to his explanation of evolution by natural selection, which stands as one of the grand intellectual achievements in the history of science. The Earth’s exuberant biodiversity is a wellspring for scientific curiosity and discovery about nature’s workings. It is also a source of joy and aesthetic inspiration from poets to philosophers, and provides life-support services to all humanity.
Many scientists have argued that as a consequence of human activities the Earth is now entering the sixth mass extinction event in its four-billion-year history (and the only such event precipitated by a biotic agent). The biodiversity crisis is prompting scientific efforts on many fronts. Systematists are describing biodiversity and reconstructing the Tree of Life. Ecologists are mapping the distributions of biodiversity and global hotspots that merit special conservation attention. Paleontologists are placing the current crisis in temporal context with regard to the Earth’s long geological history, and also to the more recent history of human impacts on biodiversity across timescales ranging from decades to millennia. Educators and concerned scientists are striving to alert policy makers and the public to the biodiversity crisis.
Goals of this colloquium are to synthesize recent discoveries and concepts regarding the global abundance and distribution of biodiversity, and to compare these biodiversity patterns to conditions in the near and distant evolutionary past, as well as to those plausible in the near-term future.
Session I: Extant Evolutionary Diversity: What Stands to be Lost?
Francisco J. Ayala, University of California, Irvine, Chair
The Extent of Extant Biodiversity: Tallying Modern Populations and Species
Andy Dobson, Princeton University
Coral Reefs: Hotspots of Biodiversity and Extinction
Marjorie Reaka, University of Maryland
Biodiversity Genetics: Three Ambitious Assignments for the Field
John C. Avise, University of California, Irvine
Are We in the Midst of the Sixth Mass Extinction?
David Wake, University of California, Berkeley
Session II: Evolutionary Perspectives on Biodiversity and Extinction
Stephen P. Hubbell, University of California, Los Angeles, Chair
A Phylogenetic Perspective on Modern Biodiversity
Michael Donoghue, Yale University
Extinction as the Loss of Evolutionary History
Douglas Erwin, National Museum of Natural History
Extinction and the Spatial and Temporal Dynamics of Biodiversity
David Jablonski, University of Chicago
Microbial Biodiversity: Dimensions and Geography
Jessica Green, University of Oregon
Francisco J. Ayala, University of California, Irvine, Introduction
Where Does Biodiversity Go from Here?
Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University
Session III: Case Studies: Historical Perspectives on Recent Biotic Changes
Michael Donoghue, Yale University, Introduction and Chair
Climate Change, People, and Diversity Loss: Glimpsing the Future through Quaternary Mammal Extinctions
Anthony Barnosky, University of California, Berkeley
Species Invasions and Extinction: The Future of Native Biodiversity on Islands
Dov Sax, Brown University
Ecosystem Extinction and Evolution in the Brave New Ocean
Jeremy Jackson, Scripps Institute
Phanerozoic Marine Diversity and Extinctions
John Alroy, National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, Santa Barbara
Session IV: Phylogeny’s Future: the Loss or Perpetuation of Evolution History?
John C. Avise, University of California, Irvine, Chair
Phylogenetic Trees and the Future of Mammalian Biodiversity
Andy Purvis, Imperial College London
The Short- and Long-term Future of Tropical Forests
Stephen P. Hubbell, University of California, Los Angeles
Why Does Biodiversity Matter?
Jennifer Martiny, University of California, Irvine
Engaging the Public on Biodiversity Issues
Peter J. Bryant, University of California, Irvine
Francisco J. Ayala, University of California, Irvine