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Evolution and Conservation of Biodiversity

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Understanding how the evolutionary processes expounded by Darwin and Wallace have shaped current patterns of biodiversity is a profound challenge to modern Evolutionary Biogeography. We live in a time of accelerating global change due to human impacts on the biosphere, leading many to refer to an anthropogenic extinction crisis. Yet our knowledge of the distribution of biodiversity remains woefully incomplete. This limits the effectiveness of conservation efforts, especially those within recognized global hotspots. Here then, is the challenge to the new generation of evolutionary biogeographers – to be able to predict the current distribution of diversity, at multiple scales, by harnessing our knowledge of evolutionary processes and past environmental change. From this point, we can forecast better the inevitable impacts future global change and identify strategies that will protect both the products of past evolution and the processes that ensure ongoing viability of natural systems. In this talk, I will describe how key biogeographic insights of Darwin and Wallace have been supported and extended by modern (especially molecular) biogeography, with particular reference to island radiations and tropical rainforests. Drawing on this, I will outline a predictive approach to biogeographic analysis. Though incomplete, such a framework should enhance both the fundamental science and the effectiveness of conservation in a rapidly changing world.


Professor Craig Moritz is Director of the Museum of Verterbrate Zoology and Professor of Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley. He holds the Whitley Award, Roy. Zool. Soc. NSW (1997); Special Investigator Award from the Australian Research Council (1998 – 2003); Fellow of the California Academy of Science (2002), Hon Professor at Univ. Queensland (2002), Virginia & Walter Gill Chair of Natural History (2002). Craig’s current major research projects are: • Genetics and evolution of rainforest fauna • Molecular population genetics of endangered/managed species (various) • Biodiversity Informatics & Museums Science • MVZ Grinnell project • Mapping evolutionary hotspots for conservation in California

This talk is part of the Darwin College Lecture Series series.

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