EEB Thursday Seminar: Ecosystem entanglement and spooky ecological actions (instability) at a distance
Kevin McCann, Professor, Department of Integrative Biology, University of Guelph
The world is experiencing unprecedented transformation of nutrient flows through human action, with impacts accelerating including fisheries collapse, hypoxic dead zones, and polluted drinking water. Clearly, nutrient application produces a series of entangled and unintended consequences that suggests a fundamental imbalance in how we manage the planet. Interestingly, awareness that things are not what they might seem with nutrients appeared 50 years ago in the pages of Science, with Michael Rosenzweig’s seminal paper on the “Paradox of Enrichment “. Here, pushed by recent empirical findings of ecosystem imbalance occurring on the landscape we revisit Rosenzweig’s paradox of enrichment results from a more wholistic food web perspective and a large spatial perspective (meta-ecosystems). While many have argued against any empirical evidence for Rosenzweig’s paradox of enrichment in nature, when we broaden his work to include multiple types of instability in space we find that spatial food web theory suggests we expect to find ecosystem imbalances often at great distances from the local source of nutrient enrichment given natures vast transport systems (e.g., stream, rivers, oceanic currents, wind, mass migration events). The results also suggest an analog to network food web theory that stabilization of these large spatially distant ecosystem imbalances can occur by muting key spatial pathways of nutrient transport in meta-ecosystems.
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