Dr Tom Matthews DPhil, AFHEA

Dr Tom Matthews

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
Birmingham Fellow

Contact details

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Tom Matthews is a Birmingham Fellow who researches global environmental change issues using macroecological, macroevolutionary and biogeographical approaches. He applies a mixture of theoretical and empirical methods to investigate various macroecological topics, including species-area relationships and species abundance distributions. He has a keen interest in island systems, and in particular the application of island theory to habitat island systems.

His research also aims to provide information of use in biodiversity conservation in fragmented landscapes and island systems, and a number of his papers are focused on conservation biogeography issues. Recently, he has started to focus on the impact of human-driven species extinctions and introductions on island ecosystem functioning and functional diversity.

Google scholar profile: https://scholar.google.co.uk/citations?user=jLhtK7QAAAAJ&hl=en 

Research Gate profile: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Tom_Matthews5


  • DPhil – University of Oxford
  • MSc – University of Oxford (Distinction)
  • BSc (Hons) – University of Birmingham (First)
  • Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy


Tom completed his BSc at the University of Birmingham in 2009, before undertaking a year as a researcher at Birmingham focusing on urban ecology under the supervision of Professor Jon Sadler. He then progressed to study an MSc and DPhil at Oxford University under the supervision of Professor Rob Whittaker. His DPhil was entitled: 'analysing, modelling and mitigating the impact of habitat destruction and fragmentation on species diversity: a macroecological perspective.' During his time at Oxford he won numerous awards for his research, including a NERC scholarship, two Royal Geographical Society Awards, and the University of Oxford’s Vice Chancellor’s Award. During this time he also published over twenty peer-reviewed journal articles.

Postgraduate supervision

Qualified and motivated graduate students with similar research interests are welcome to email me. In particular, I am looking for PhD students interested in macroecology/biogeography questions related to different types of species diversity: taxonomic, functional and phylogenetic (e.g. View the full project advert). I am also interested in supervising students with interests in island biogeography, functional island biogeography, and the study of global environmental change (e.g. habitat loss, climate change, invasive species) on islands.

Current Doctoral Researchers 

  • Eva Loza Vega (2014-) Long term changes in macroinvertebrate communities in streams of Denali National Park, Alaska. CONACYT, Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (Mexico) PhD Scholarship. 
  • Zining Wang (2014-) Drought impacts on stream ecosystems. 
  • Ye Li (Izzy)(2017 -) The island biogeography of urban ecosystems.
  • Yating Song (2018 - present) Island biogeography in urban systems.
  • Joseph Wayman (2018 - present) Disentangling the synergistic effects of habitat loss, climate change, and invasive species on biodiversity: an holistic approach to global environmental change research.
  • Imogen Mansfield (2018 - present) Indicators of air pollution-derived stress in birds.
  • Sijeh Asuk (2018 - present) Phenology of tropical food-producing tree species.

Completed Doctoral Researchers

  • Thomas Aspin (2014-2018) Drought impacts on stream ecosystems. NERC CENTA Doctoral Training Partnership Studentship.


Research interests

Tom researches global environmental change issues using macroecological, macroevolutionary and biogeographical approaches. He is interested in a variety of community ecological and macroecological topics, including species–area relationships, species abundance distributions and nestedness. In particular, his research has aimed to discern how diversity (taxonomic, functional and phylogenetic) is affected by environmental change, with a particular focus on habitat loss and fragmentation and the structure of ecological communities in fragmented landscapes. He is also interested in island biogeography more generally, and many of his papers have focused on the application of island biogeography theory to habitat island systems. 

Tom works on a variety of ecological systems, predominantly at macroecological and community ecological scales, and spanning both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and a broad range of taxa. His work integrates both theoretical and empirical approaches to diversity patterns with the aim to inform on the ground conservation.

Other activities

  • Research Associate in the School of Geography, University of Oxford.
  • Associate Researcher in the Biodiversity Research Group, University of the Azores.
  • Visiting Researcher to the Faculty of Science, University of the Ryukyus, Japan
  • Member of the Island Biogeography working group (OXIB).
  • Member of the British Ecological Society, the International Biogeography Society, the Society for Island Biology, and the Royal Geographical Society



Matthews, T.J., & Guilhaumon, F. (2018) sars (version 1.0) R package on CRAN. URL: http://cran.r-project.org/web/packages/sars/index.html. Package Author and Maintainer.

Matthews, T.J. & Strona, G. (2017) nos (version 1.0) R package on CRAN. https://cran.r-project.org/web/packages/nos/index.html. Package Author and Maintainer. 

Matthews, T.J., Borregaard, M.K, Ugland, K. & Gillespie, C. (2017) gambin (version 2.1) R package on CRAN. http://cran.r-project.org/web/packages/gambin/index.html. Package Author and Maintainer. 

Journal Articles

Matthews, T.J., Triantis, K, Rigal, F. & Whittaker, R.J. (2019) A global model of island species-area relationships. PNAS, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1818190116

Matthews, T.J., Aspin, T.W.H., Ulrich, W., Baselga, A., Kubota, Y., Proios, K., Triantis, K., Whittaker, R.J. & Strona, G. (2019) A warning on partitioning additive beta-diversity into nestedness and turnover components. Global Ecology & Biogeography, DOI: 10.1111/geb.12921

Matthews, T.J., Triantis, K., Whittaker, R.J. & Guilhaumon, F. (2019) sars: an R package for fitting, evaluating and comparing species-area relationship models. Ecography, DOI: 10.1111/ecog.04271

Matthews, T.J. & Aspin, T. (2019) Model averaging fails to improve the extrapolation capability of the island species–area relationship. Journal of Biogeography, DOI: 10.1111/jbi.13598

Mittermeier, J.C., Roll, U., Matthews, T.J. & Grenyer, R. (2019)A season for all things: phenological imprints in Wikipedia usage and their relevance to conservation. PLOS Biology, 17, e3000146.

Leigh, C, Aspin, T.W.H., Matthews, T.J., Rolls, R.J., Ledger, M.E. (2019) Drought alters the functional stability of stream invertebrate communities through time. Journal of Biogeography, DOI: 10.1111/jbi.13638

Matthews, T.J., Sadler, J., Kubota, Y., Woodall, C.W. & Pugh., T.A.M. (2019) Systematic variation in North American tree species abundance distributions along macroecological climatic gradients. Global Ecology & Biogeography, 28, 601-611.

Matthews, T.J., Borregaard, M.K., Gillespie, C.S., Rigal, F., Ugland, K.I., Krüger, R.F., Marques, R., Sadler, J.P., Borges, P.A.V., Kubota, Y. & Whittaker, R.J. (2019) Extension of the gambin model to multimodal species abundance distributions. Methods in Ecology & Evolution, 10, 432-437.

Aspin, T.W., Khamis, K., Matthews, T.J., Milner, A.M., O'Callaghan, M.J., Trimmer, M.  Woodward, G. and Ledger, M.E. (2018), Extreme drought pushes stream invertebrate communities over functional thresholds. Global Change Biology, doi:10.1111/gcb.14495

Ulrich, W., Nakadai, R., Matthews, T. J., & Kubota, Y. (2018). The two-parameter Weibull distribution as a universal tool to model the variation in species relative abundances. Ecological Complexity, 36, 110-116.

Matthews, T. J., Sadler, J., Carvalho, R., Nunes, R. and Borges, P. A. (2018) Differential temporal beta‐diversity patterns of native and non‐native arthropod species in a fragmented native forest landscape. Ecography. DOI:10.1111/ecog.03812

Aspin, T.W., Matthews, T.J., Khamis, K., Milner, A.M., Wang, Z., O'Callaghan, M.J. and Ledger, M.E. (2018) Drought intensification drives turnover of structure and function in stream invertebrate communities. Ecography. DOI: [10.1111/ecog.03711]

Whittaker, R.J., Fernández-Palacios, J.M., Matthews, T.J., Borregaard, M.K. & Triantis, K.A. (2017) Island biogeography: Taking the long view of nature’s laboratories. Science, 357, DOI: 10.1126/science.aam8326

Strona, G., Matthews, T.J., Kortsch, S. & Veech, J.A. (2018) NOS: A software suite to compute node overlap and segregation in ecological networks. Ecography, 41, 558-566

Matthews, T.J., Borges, P.A.V., de Azevedo, E.B. & Whittaker, R.J. (2017) A biogeographical perspective on species abundance distributions: recent advances and opportunities for future research. Journal of Biogeography, 44, 1705–1710. 

Matthews, T.J., Cottee-Jones, H.E.W., Bregman, T.P. & Whittaker R.J. (2017) Assessing the relative importance of isolated Ficus trees to insectivorous birds in an Indian human-modified tropical landscape. Biodiversity and Conservation, doi:10.1007/s10531-017-1387-8 

Patiño, J., Whittaker, R.J., Borges, P.A.V., Fernández-Palacios, J.M., Ah-Peng, C., Araújo, M.B., Ávila, S.P., Cardoso, P., Cornuault, J., de Boer, E.J., de Nascimento, L., Gil, A., González-Castro, A., Gruner, D.S., Heleno, R., Hortal, J., Illera, J.C., Kaiser-Bunbury, C.N., Matthews, T.J., Papadopoulou, A., Pettorelli, N., Price, J.P., Santos, A.M.C., Steinbauer, M.J., Triantis, K.A., Valente, L., Vargas, P., Weigelt, P. & Emerson, B.C. (2017) A roadmap for island biology: 50 fundamental questions after 50 years of The Theory of Island Biogeography. Journal of Biogeography, 44, 963-983. 

Picanço, A., Rigal, F., Matthews, T.J., Cardoso, P. & Borges, P.A.V. (2017) Impact of land-use change on flower-visiting insect communities on an oceanic island. Insect Conservation and Diversity, DOI: 10.1111/icad.12216 

Borregaard, M.K., Matthews, T.J. et al. (2017). Oceanic island biogeography through the lens of the General Dynamic Model: assessment and prospect. Biological Reviews, 92, 830–853. 

Matthews, T.J., Triantis, K, Rigal, F., Borregaard, M.K. Guilhaumon, F. & Whittaker, R.J. (2016) 'Island species–area relationships and species–accumulation curves are not equivalent: an analysis of habitat island datasets. Global Ecology & Biogeography, 25, 607–618. 

Borregaard, M.K., Matthews, T.J. & Whittaker, R.J. (2016) The general dynamic model: towards a unified theory of island biogeography? Global Ecology & Biogeography, 25, 805–816. 

Matthews, T.J., Guilhaumon, F., Triantis, K. Borregaard, M.K. & Whittaker, R.J. (2016) On the form of species–area relationships in habitat islands and true islands. Global Ecology & Biogeography, 25, 847–858. 

Cottee‐Jones, H.E.W., Matthews, T.J. & Whittaker R.J. (2016). The movement shortfall in bird conservation: accounting for nomadic, dispersive and irruptive species. Animal Conservation, 19, 227–234. 

Matthews, T.J., Sheard, C., Cottee‐Jones, H.E.W., Bregman, T.P., Tobias, J.A. & Whittaker R.J. (2015) Ecological traits reveal functional nestedness of bird communities in habitat islands: a global survey. Oikos, 124, 817–826. This paper was selected by Oikos as an Editor’s Choice paper. 

Matthews, T.J. (2015) Analysing and modelling the impact of habitat fragmentation on species diversity: a macroecological perspective. Frontiers of Biogeography, 7, 60-68. 

Matthews, T.J., Cottee‐Jones, H.E.W. & Whittaker R.J. (2015). Quantifying and interpreting nestedness in habitat islands. Diversity and Distributions, 21, 392–404. 

Matthews, T.J. & Whittaker, R.J. (2015). On the species abundance distribution in applied ecology and biodiversity management. Journal of Applied Ecology, 52, 443–454. 

Hale, J.D., Fairbrass, A.J., Matthews, T.J., Davies, G. & Sadler, J.P. (2015) The ecological impact of city lighting: exploring thresholds of functional habitat connectivity for urban bats. Global Change Biology, 21, 2467–2478. This paper was selected as one of 2015’s 15 most-downloaded papers from the journal. 

Cottee-Jones, H.E.W., Matthews, T.J., Bregman, T.P., Barua, M., Tamuly, J. & Whittaker R.J. (2015). Are protected areas needed to maintain functional diversity in human-modified landscapes? PloS ONE, 10, E0123952. 

Matthews, T.J., Cottee‐Jones, H.E.W. & Whittaker R.J. (2014) Habitat fragmentation and the species–area relationship: a focus on total species richness obscures the impact of habitat loss on habitat specialists. Diversity and Distributions, 20, 1136–1146. 

Matthews, T.J., Borregaard, M.K., Ugland, K., Borges, P.A.V., Rigal, F., Cardoso, P. & Whittaker, R.J. (2014) The gambin model provides a superior fit to species abundance distributions with a single free parameter: evidence, implementation and interpretation. Ecography. 37, 1002–1011. 

Matthews, T.J. & Whittaker, R.J. (2014) Neutral theory and the species abundance distribution: recent developments and prospects for unifying niche and neutral perspectives. Ecology and Evolution, 4, 2263-2277. 

Matthews, T.J. & Whittaker, R.J. (2014) Species abundance distributions: a review of recent advances in approaches for fitting and comparing competing models. Frontiers of Biogeography, 6, 67-82. 

Matthews, T.J., Borges, P.A.V. & Whittaker R.J. (2014) Multimodal species abundance distributions: a deconstruction approach reveals the processes behind the pattern. Oikos, 123, 533-544. 

Whittaker, R.J. & Matthews, T.J. (2014) The varied form of species–area relationships. Journal of Biogeography, 41, 209-210. 

Matthews, T.J., Steinbauer, M.J., Tzirkalli, E., Triantis, K.A. & Whittaker, R.J. (2014) Thresholds and the species–area relationship: a synthetic analysis of habitat island datasets. Journal of Biogeography, 41, 1018-1028. 

Matthews, T.J. (2013) Integrating geoconservation and biodiversity conservation: theoretical foundations and conservation recommendations in a European Union context. Geoheritage, 6, 57-70. 

Hale, J.D., Davies, G., Fairbrass, A.J., Matthews, T.J. & Sadler, J.P. (2013) Mapping artificial lightscapes – spatial patterning of artificial lighting in an urban landscape. PloS ONE, 8(5), e61460. 

Bates, A.J., Sadler, J.P., Fairbrass, A.J., Falk, S.J., Hale, J.D. & Matthews, T.J. (2011) Changing Bee and Hoverfly Pollinator Assemblages along an Urban-Rural Gradient. PloS ONE, 6(8), e23459. 

Hale, J.D., Fairbrass, A.J., Matthews, T.J. & Sadler, J.P. (2012) Habitat Composition and Connectivity Predicts Bat Presence at Foraging Sites in a Large UK Conurbation. PloS ONE, 7, e33300.

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