Associate Professor Jonathan Rhodes is based in the School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management and the Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science at The University of Queensland (UQ). He received his PhD in Ecology in 2005 and has been at UQ since 2007, after two years at CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, Hobart before that. His primary research interests lie in understanding the spatial processes that drive biodiversity and ecosystem services, and developing fundamental principles for decision-making in conservation.
The Effects of Climate and Landscape Change on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services
A major theme of Jonathan’s work to date is answering critical questions about the effect of human-induced landscape change and climate change on wildlife, biodiversity and ecosystem services.
The most significant aspect of this work has been advances in our understanding of the effect of landscape and climate change on koala populations over the past 15 years. This work has revolutionised our understanding of the ecology of koalas towards a more holistic landscape and regional perspective. Major contributions have been: the finding of large variations in habitat thresholds across the koala’s range (Rhodes et al. 2008), the discovery that climate change and drought has been a major driver of koalas declines in western Queensland and New South Wales (Seabrook et al. 2011, Santika et al. 2014), understanding the cumulative impact of multiple threats (Rhodes et al. 2011) and understanding the importance of landscape structure on genetic connectivity at multiple scales (Dudaniec et al. 2013).
More recently he has worked on reconceptualising, for ecosystem services, ideas on the effect of landscape structure originally developed for biodiversity (Mitchell et al. 2015). This work demonstrates that the effect of fragmentation on ecosystem services can be vastly different from that predicted by existing theory for biodiversity once the supply, demand and flow of ecosystem services are accounted for. He is currently working on testing predictions from this new conceptualisation in real systems.
Finally, Jonathan has an interest in the interacting effects of climate change and landscape change and has made important discoveries in this area. For example, his work has shown that the effect of habitat loss interacts strongly with climate (Mantyka-Pringle et al. 2012, Mantyka-Pringle et al. 2015) and that the effect of sea level rise interacts strongly with other threats (Trail et al. 2011) to drive biodiversity outcomes.
Decision-making for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services
A second major focus of Jonathan’s work is understanding how threat, ecological, and social processes drive optimal decisions and trade-offs for biodiversity, ecosystem services and other values. This work draws on decision theory as a tool and to date has focussed decision-making in dynamic landscapes, under sea level rise and for socio-ecological systems. More recently he has been exploring strategic approaches for the management of risk.
A final theme of Jonathan’s work is in the area of monitoring and prioritisation of research investment for improved environmental outcomes. This work focusses on the monitoring of ecological components of environmental systems and the monitoring and research prioritisation in socio-ecological systems.