Springs as models to unveil ecological drivers and responses : Perspectives for ecosystem theory from neglected ecosystems

Andreas Schweiger1
1 Biogeography, University of Bayreuth

D 1.8 in Research highlights from BayCEER working groups

13.10.2016, 09:50-10:00, H36, NW III

Predicting the ecological effects of environmental perturbations remains challenging due to complex interactions between species and the environment, which constantly adapt the ecological memory and, thus, the future response of ecosystems. General theoretical frameworks like the Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS) theory might provide a solution. In my thesis I discuss the applicability of the CAS theory for ecosystems by empirically testing its major principles (i.e. adaptation, complexity and scale dependence) for spring fens. I observed strong adaptation of plant communities to historical environmental stressors (acidification) affecting the resilience to subsequent perturbations (climatic extremes). Alternate states in plant community composition initiated by acidification turned out to be further stabilized by abiotic-biotic feedbacks. Furthermore, ecological response of plant species to environmental conditions (temperature) showed high cross-scale similarity. I argue that the exceptional environmental character of spring fens qualifies these ecosystems as ideal model systems to test and further develop the ideas of CAS theory for ecology and biogeography.

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