Stability of complex ecological networks under climate change

Theme: Biodiversity, Evolution & Ecology
richardpearson
Main Supervisor:

Richard Pearson

Genetics, Evolution and Environment, UCL

severini
Second Supervisor:

Simone Severini

Computer Science, UCL

Project Description:

Climate change is projected to have significant impacts on ecosystems, resulting in species-level extinctions and changes in community composition. Although a great deal of research has focused on predicting responses of individual species to climate change, potential impacts at the community-level remain poorly understood.

Many attempts to predict the responses of species to climate change have used ecological niche models (species distribution models), but this single-species approach ignores interactions between species and thus tells us little about responses at the community-level. This PhD project will integrate ecological niche models with simulations of multi-species networks. A well-studied ecological network model will be used to synthesize multi-species systems and the stability of these systems will then be examined under scenarios of environmental change.

It is hoped that the project will advance methods for identifying types of ecosystem that are most vulnerable to climate change.

Policy Impact of Research:

Conceptual advances made will guide future empirical research, including laboratory and field experimentation, and will inform conservation strategies; in particular, it is expected that the analysis of complex interactions and feedbacks between species will support arguments for ‘whole-ecosystem’ approaches to biodiversity conservation.

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