Meeting Summary: The search for universal mechanisms governing biodiversity has captivated biologists since the time of Darwin's famous quandary about the rules governing the "tangled bank," a complex community. We are motivated by this long-standing question to (1) build an informatics platform that allows researchers to synthesize multi-dimensional biodiversity data across projects and systems; (2) use this platform to join previously separate, largescale, multi-institution projects that together span a wide diversity of places, scales, taxa, and times; and (3) create a unifying model that jointly predicts species abundance, population genetic structure, phylogenetics, and trait diversity. We will apply this model across the many disparate systems to understand the limits to and feedbacks between species, phylogenetic, population genetic, and functional trait diversity. We will add new data to each of the five systems, improving our modeling inference and documentation life’s diversity.
Our quantitative, multi-dimensional approach (encompassing abundance, genetic, phylogenetic, and trait distributions) allows us to rigorously evaluate the extent to which a universal set of mechanisms drives biodiversity patterns across disparate ecosystems. If testing the model across systems reveals idiosyncratic assembly, we can identify variables that drive the dynamics of these outliers. The set of mechanisms we model range from neutral, to environmental filtering, to trait-based species interactions. This breadth of process and pattern allows us to address questions fundamental to ecology and evolution: Does isolation alone foster diversification? How important are environmental gradients in driving speciation? Do high diversity systems result from increased strength of species interactions? Does assembly by immigration versus in situ speciation leave different marks on contemporary patterns of diversity? Are most systems far from equilibrium? If so, does the nature of community assembly determine whether non-equilibrium diversity is greater than or less than what would be expected if equilibrium were ever reached?