Modelling distribution and disturbances of global biodiversity


The number of species found at a given point on the planet varies by orders of magnitude, yet large-scale gradients in biodiversity appear to follow some very general patterns. Little mechanistic theory has been formulated to explain the emergence of observed gradients of biodiversity both on land and in the oceans. In 2018 B. Worm and D. Tittensor have published a book titled A Theory of Global Biodiversity in which they suggest a very basic model for predicting global patterns of species diversity based on a comprehensive empirical synthesis. They set up a model from few underlying processes, including neutral, niche and metabolic theories. Although their results are preliminary and a theory is far from being developed, the authors show some interesting results that deserve further investigation from the theoretical as well as empirical standpoint. The main goal of the project is to set up a simple yet realistic theory of global biodiversity patterns starting from the empirical analyses of environmental correlates across habitats, temperature gradients based on Arrhenius’ law and neutral mechanisms, which possibly point towards underlying structuring principles and can be put on a more theoretical basis. The starting point will be Worm’s book along with other related papers therein. The next modelling step is the implementation of meaningful disturbances and perturbations of global biogeographic systems in order to predict future global biodiversity scenarios, from landscape heterogeneity to climate change. The first part of the project will be mainly computational, but important aspects of data analysis and mining will be also relevant. Along the way theoretical aspects will become more and more important.

Possible collaboration with B. Worm himself and M. Wilkes (University of Coventry, UK).


  • Worm, B. and Tittensor, D.P., 2018. ‘‘A Theory of Global Biodiversity’’, Princeton University Press.
Collaborative LIPh
Collaborative Laboratory of Interdisciplinary Physics