2018 in stories (1)

Here on ‘On top of the world’, we have the tradition to end the year with a ‘best of’, a list of the most read stories on this blog from the last year. This list helps us to wrap up everything that happened here in the last 12 months. And that is a lot of big things, as you will see.

12 months ago, our situation was indeed very different from where we are standing now. At the beginning of the year, I was still full-on working on the defence of my PhD, yet since then, this website – and I – have rapidly evolved. Now, this site is a true reflection of the team of people we are, all working together to answer our scientific questions.

Here is part 1 of ‘2018 in stories’, with our growing knowledge on how species are on the move due to global change running as a thread through the year:

1) Species distributions in a messy world

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We kick off the year with an important meeting we had early February in Zürich, Switzerland. The Global Mountain Biodiversity Assessment (GMBA) brought together experts on species distribution modelling and remote sensing. The goal, supported by the European Space Agency (ESA), was to brainstorm around how the future of distribution modelling will look, thanks to the rapid evolvement of remote sensing tools like satellites. The conclusion of this workshop will hopefully be published in the next year, but the blogpost already lifts a tip of the veil.

2) Climate change biogeography

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Our second meeting of the year, in Évora, Portugal, brought together hundreds of biogeographers, scientists studying the distribution of species, and how they change. At this conference, we discussed another fundamental question: how does climate change affect species distributions, in the past, the present, and the future? This blogpost summarizes shortly what we all know so far.

3) Matching the plant with the environment

Impatiens

In april, we published a paper on what makes invasive plant species so successful. The perfect match between plants and the environment, so turns out. And that match can even change dramatically between local populations of the same species within our little Flanders, as you can read here.

4) Plant species are on the move, and it is us humans who move them

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April also brought the biggest milestone of the year: my PhD defense! In this post, I summarize the story I wanted to bring to the world after 5 years of scientific inquiry: plant species are on the move, and our human behaviour is speeding up that process, due to the way in which we use the land. Roadsides are a good example of that, with countless plant species travelling up and down mountain roads.

5) Trail adventures

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We end this first half of the year with trail adventures: in June, I spent a few days in Davos, Switzerland to talk about polar ecology, and to hit the trails for science. I used this splendid opportunity in the heart of the Swiss Alps to collect data for our global trail survey. This post summarizes how that endeavour went, as a teaser and an example for any other mountain lover willing to spend a day hiking mountain trails and collecting data for us.

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