Theory in Biodiversity Science: the EcoNetLab
Natural communities comprise animal and plant species that are coupled by their feeding interactions. These interactions link all species of a local community in complex trophic networks that are in the focus of our first research area: Predator-prey interactions and trophic networks.
These local communities inhabit habitat patches that are separated within a less-habitable landscape matrix. Movement of individuals between habitat patches links these local communities yielding metacommunities and spatial habitat networks that are studied within our second research area: Movement, metacommunities and spatial networks.
These research topics are linked by our general use of allometric scaling relationships. They describe relationships between individual body masses and trophic processes (e.g. metabolism, growth, maximum feeding) or movement characteristics (e.g. maximum speed, dispersal distance). The model predictions are tested by Experimental metacommunities and microbial networks.
Main research questions
Across these research areas we are interested in a mechanistic understanding of how environmental conditions and human land-use interact in driving biodiversity and ecosystem functions. Analyses and simulations of these ecological-network models allow addressing our main questions:
- What are the effects of environmental gradients, climate change, and habitat fragmentation on the structure, stability and functioning of ecological networks?
- Which are the consequences of species loss for the functioning of ecological networks and the biogeochemical cycles of nutrients?
- How can we scale up from the structures, dynamics and functioning of local communities to the level of landscapes with mobile species?