Bridging theories for ecosystem stability through structural sensitivity analysis of ecological models in equilibrium
Ecologists are challenged by the need to bridge and synthesize different approaches and theories to obtain a coherent understanding of ecosystems in a changing world. Both food web theory and regime shift theory shine light on mechanisms that confer stability to ecosystems, but from different angles. Empirical food web models are developed to analyze how equilibria in real multi-trophic ecosystems are shaped by species interactions, and often include linear functional response terms for simple estimation of interaction strengths from observations. Models of regime shifts focus on qualitative changes of equilibrium points in a slowly changing environment, and typically include non-linear functional response terms. Currently, it is unclear how the stability of an empirical food web model, expressed as the rate of system recovery after a small perturbation, relates to the vulnerability of the ecosystem to collapse.
Here, we conduct structural sensitivity analyses of classical consumer-resource models in equilibrium along an environmental gradient. Specifically, we change non-proportional interaction terms into proportional ones, while maintaining the equilibrium biomass densities and material flux rates, to analyze how alternative model formulations shape the stability properties of the equilibria. The results reveal no consistent relationship between the stability of the original models and the proportionalized versions, even though they describe the same biomass values and material flows. We use these findings to critically discuss whether stability analysis of observed equilibria by empirical food web models can provide insight into regime shift dynamics, and highlight the challenge of bridging alternative modelling approaches in ecology and beyond.
Research news | 2023-06-08
Envisioning alternative futures helps rethink human-ocean relationships
Imagining sustainable futures for the high seas may inspire change today, according to a recent study.
Research news | 2023-06-02
More freshwater experts needed in the IPBES biodiversity panel
Centre researcher Jan Kuiper lists why and how more freshwater experts could contribute to the Intergovernmental Science–Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services
General news | 2023-06-01
Centre researcher Juan Rocha elected into Young Academy of Sweden
Centre researcher Juan Rocha joins the Young Academy of Sweden, a junior version of the prestigious Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, for a five-year term
Research news | 2023-05-31
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International commission proposes new safe and just boundaries for maintaining a healthy planet and protecting people from significant harm
Research news | 2023-05-25
AI could create a perfect storm of climate misinformation
The speed and the way misinformation about climate change and sustainability issues moves around the world is rapidly changing. Now, the Centre presents a new synthesis on AI and climate misinformation in connection to the Nobel Prize Summit 2023, "Truth, Trust and Hope"
Research news | 2023-05-22
Financial actors and academia join forces to build back biodiversity
Today is International Biodiversity Day! This year with the theme “From agreement to action: build back biodiversity”, and for us, that is a good reason to highlight the potential of the finance sector in reviving biodiversity