Project title: Spatially explicit theoretical community ecology
Summary: This project aims to improve our understanding of spatial community ecology. To achieve this, the project has at its heart the development and analysis of a novel numerical model of a multispecies meta-community in a 1-3 dimensional landscape matrix. Patches will be distributed in a variety of theoretical topographies such that the effects of connectivity/dispersal on community dynamics can be studied. Environmental gradients will also be encoded into the model by making the linear growth rates or carrying capacities of species functions of the Euclidean position of each patch. It is anticipated that within-patch dynamics will be based, for computational simplicity, on a system of S classic competitive Lotka-Volterra equations, where S refers to the richness of the species pool. The meta-community model will be populated through an assembly process, with the ecological parameters of invading species drawn e.g. at random from ecologically plausible distributions.
Model outputs, specifically those relating to emergent properties such as extinction rates, species turn over, rank abundance curves, or the predictability of presence/absence from environmental niches, will be compared to empirical data. We hope to use field survey data of phytoplankton and microbial communities collected from a series of lakes in the Swiss/Austrian Alps, connected via rivers, groundwater and other taxon-specific dispersal mechanisms.