How is an ecosystem affected when one or several species die out, or a new species invades and disturbs the ecological system? In order to predict how complex ecosystems will react to disturbances, it is important to understand how species influence each other. Theoretical ecology approaches such ecological questions with the aid of mathematical models. A new theoretical ecology study, published in the scientific journal Ecology Letters, focuses on marine ecosystems, such as coral reefs, fjords and the open sea. These marine systems contain several habitats of great ecological and economic importance. The scientific analysis of these habitats is, however, complicated because of the number and variety of species that call them home.
One method to deal with this complexity is to describe the system as a food web, where the nodes represent the different species and the links correspond to interactions between them. An interaction may be, for example, that one species feeds on another, that an insect pollinates certain plants, or that a parasite attacks certain hosts.
Research - Networks - Interactions - Predation - Species
"Research on ecological networks has focused on how direct interactions like predation are controlled by species traits such as body size. We have taken this idea one step further and looked at how the ecological role of a species, or in other words its pattern of direct and indirect interactions, is controlled by its traits," says Anna Eklöf, senior lecturer in the Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology and leader of the study.
It is expensive, time-consuming, and difficult to measure who feeds on whom in the natural world and how each species is affected by the feeding patterns of other species. It is, thus, a great advantage if we can take a shortcut and predict the role of a species in an ecosystem based on its known traits without knowing...
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