Vortragsreihe Ökologie und Umweltforschung WS 2012/13

Donnerstag 12:00-13:30 H 6, GEO

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Prof. Dr. Gunnar Lischeid
Inst. of Landscape Hydrology, ZALF / Inst. for Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Potsdam (Homepage)
Donnerstag, 14.02.2013 17:00-18:30 :

How many degrees of freedom does a landscape have? A new approach to grasp apparent ecosystem complexity.


Ecological research has revealed a confusing interplay of a multitude of processes at different scales. It seems that ecosystems are extremely complex, difficult to understand, and different effects can hardly be differentiated. On the other hand, ecosystems and landscapes clearly exhibit structures and are far from being random ensembles of single entities.

Experts often agree that some phenomena are more typical compared to others for given systems, although often without being able to give a clear reason for that assessment. This provides some evidence that ecosystems are much more constrained than current theory and models would predict. The approach presented in this talk is based on the working hypothesis that landscapes are highly constrained systems which results in a low intrinsic dimensionality of landscape (or ecosystem) processes. That means that often only a small number of processes prevail the observed temporal or spatial patterns in landscapes, e.g., of solute concentration, groundwater heads, soil moisture, or air moisture.

This hypothesis can be tested. Furthermore, it provides a basis for very efficient ways to analyse ecosystem behaviour. Due to their ease of use, some are suggested for environmental agencies to test for unexpected behaviour and to differentiate between natural and anthropogenic effects.

Last but not least, powerful methods can be derived to test and to optimize the structure of complex ecosystem models and to deepen our knowledge of landscape processes.


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