HKU ecologists and international team discover ongoing and future tropical diversity decline

By Eric Lee
May 27th 2020

How can patterns in the marine biodiversity of the past help us to understand how it may change in the future? A recent research by Drs Moriaki Yasuhara and Timothy C Bonebrake (School of Biological Sciences and Swire Institute of Marine Science, the University of Hong Kong) and numerous international collaborators finds that the tropical diversity decline now seen in the ocean is not purely human induced, but nonetheless will worsen considerably if we do not limit anthropogenic climate warming.

The research, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, used fossil records to reconstruct global oceanic biodiversity patterns of the last ice age (~20,000 years ago) and the pre-industrial period (before 1800s), and used these to build ecological models for projecting global marine biodiversity in the near future (2090s). Using fossil protozoan foraminifera as a “window” to see into past pelagic ecosystems through their rich fossil records, the authors discovered an equatorial “dip” in diversity during the pre-industrial period and projected for the end of this century, but not during the last ice age.

Journal paper: