DETERMINANTS OF INSULAR ECOLOGICAL COMPLEXITY IN THE CONTEXT OF GLOBAL CHANGE

Abstract: Islands, as relatively simple systems with well-defined borders, have a great potential to advance our comprehension of nature's complexity. Moreover, islands are considered biodiversity hotspots, but their myriad of interactions is still largely unknown. Such biodiversity is particularly fragile to anthropogenic activities and c. 80% of reported extinctions are indeed island species. By using a multi-layer approach, considering different types of interactions (i.e., multiplex networks), we aim at building the most ‘complete’ quantitative food webs to date of different insular ecosystems. We want to identify the interaction patterns that shape the structure of such multi-layer networks, and evaluate their fragility to alien invasive species, a key driver of global change in these particular ecosystems.  We will focus on uninhabited islets from four archipelagos, two from the temperate zone and two from the tropics, and compare them to similar areas in nearby disturbed (inhabited) islands. We will combine different methodologies to characterize the diversity of interactions and species populations with newly developed coextinction models to predict the persistence and resilience of island biota to disturbances. The project will enhance the cooperation between two complementary research teams that already have a collaborative background and will contribute to strengthening research at the frontier of knowledge encompassing the disciplines of Ecology and Physics.

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