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Faculty for Biology, Chemistry, and Earth Sciences

Department of Ecological Modelling - Prof. Dr. Michael Hauhs

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Ayllón, D; Grimm, V; Attinger, S; Hauhs, M; Simmer, C; Vereecken, H; Lischeid, G: Cross-disciplinary links in environmental systems science: Current state and claimed needs identified in a meta-review of process models, The Science of the Total Environment, 622-623, 954-973 (2018), doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.12.007
Terrestrial environmental systems are characterised by numerous feedback links between their different compartments. However, scientific research is organized into disciplines that focus on processes within the respective compartments rather than on interdisciplinary links.Major feedback mechanisms between compartments might therefore have been systematically overlooked so far.Without identifying these gaps, initiatives on future comprehensive environmental monitoring schemes and experimental platforms might fail. Weperformed a comprehensive overview of feedbacks between compartments currently represented in environmental sciences and explores to what degree missing links have already been acknowledged in the literature.We focused on process models as they can be regarded as repositories of scientific knowledge that compile findings of numerous single studies. In total, 118 simulation models from 23 model types were analysed. Missing processes linking different environmental compartments were identified based on a meta-review of 346 published reviews, model intercomparison studies, and model descriptions. Eight disciplines of environmental sciences were considered and 396 linking processes were identified and ascribed to the physical, chemical or biological domain. Therewere significant differences between model types and scientific disciplines regarding implemented interdisciplinary links. The most wide-spread interdisciplinary links were between physical processes in meteorology, hydrology and soil science that drive or set the boundary conditions for other processes (e.g., ecological processes). In contrast, most chemical and biological processes were restricted to links within the same compartment. Integration of multiple environmental compartments and interdisciplinary knowledge was scarce in most model types. There was a strong bias of suggested future research foci and model extensions towards reinforcing existing interdisciplinary knowledge rather than to open up new interdisciplinary pathways. No clear pattern across disciplines exists with respect to suggested future research efforts. There is no evidence that environmental research would clearly converge towards more integrated approaches or towards an overarching environmental systems theory.
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