Our recent research develops new theory to understand biodiversity and ecosystem functioning and stability over space and time.
Biodiversity and ecosystem stability across spatial scales
|Biodiversity is not only declining in many local ecosystems, but is also becoming increasingly homogenized across space. While the destabilizing effect of local biodiversity loss has been demonstrated in many studies, the consequence of biotic homogenization remains largely unknown. Our recent work developed a novel framework to study ecosystem stability across scales, namely alpha, beta, and gamma stability (Wang & Loreau 2014) and the stability-area relationship (Wang et al. 2017). In the light of this framework, we used metacommunity models and showed that biotic homogenization impairs ecosystem stability at large scales (Wang & Loreau 2016; Wang et al. 2019). This framework has recently been applied to understand dynamics of plants, birds, fishes, microbes, and global food production. Our ongoing work collects spatiotemporal data to test model predictions and use new statistical tools to reveal population dynamics over space and time.|
Biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in food webs
|One challenge in merging community and ecosystem ecology is to integrate the complexity of natural multitrophic communities into concepts of ecosystem functioning. Our recent work used food web models and demonstrated that ecosystem primary production increases with vertical diversity measured by the maximum trophic level (Vertical Diversity Hypothesis or VDH; Wang & Brose 2018). We further showed that intraguild predation (IGP), a commonly observed structure in natural food webs, could maintain a higher biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in complex food webs (Wang et al. 2019). Our ongoing projects extend previous models to clarify the link between structure and stability in complex food webs and collect data to test model predictions.|
Spatial food webs
Spatial dynamics play an important role in the maintenance of biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. We develop spatial food web models to understand how landscape configuration and dispersal interact and regulate species diversity and ecosystem functioning in realistic, complex ecological systems. Our goal is to develop an integrated theory of spatial and trophic ecology, which may offer novel insights for conservation and management practices. In the long future, we will conduct microcosm experiments to test model predictions.