Tag Archives: ecological modelling

Could Rising Temperatures Drastically Shift Species Communities?

Image Credit: Christa Rohrbach, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0, Image Cropped

Modelling temperature-driven changes in species associations across freshwater communities (2021) Perrin et al., Global Change Biology, https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.15888

The Crux

Species interact in many complex ways within an ecosystem. One species may prey on another, which can keep that prey species at a low density. Two species might compete for resources, keeping each other’s populations in check. These interactions are part and parcel of any ecosystem. But what happens when the climate changes in that ecosystem? If one species does better under warmer conditions, perhaps that could lead to that species completely wiping out a prey species, or even a competitor?

You’d think that monitoring this would be easy, given the extensive environmental data and species occurrence data we’re able to come up with in the digital age. Yet the problem is that when a species population drops as the climate changes, it’s very hard to tell whether that’s a direct result of the climate itself, or whether that species is being negatively affected by another species which has benefited from the change. That’s what we wanted to try and figure out.

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Ecological Modelling, the Coronavirus, and Why They’re Not A Perfect Match

Image Credit: Pharexia, Ratherous, AKS471883, Source Data from  Johns Hopkins University CSSEThe Centers for Disease Control and PreventionNew York TimesCNBC.

As it quickly became clear in late February and early March that COVID-19 was not going away anytime soon, attention turned to trying to figure out when and where the virus would spread. Epidemiologists and virologists have had their work cut out for them, trying to simultaneously reassure and warn people the world over about the dangers, the nature and the potential timeline of the virus.

So it came as somewhat of a surprise to see ecologists try and tip their hat into the ring. Early on in the pandemic, teams of ecologists sprang up, trying to use Species Distribution Models to predict the spread of the virus. And whilst this might sound helpful, many of these studies lacked collaboration with epidemiologists, and their predictions very quickly fell flat. Some studies suggested that areas like Brazil and Central Africa would be largely spared by the virus, which quickly turned out not to be the case. Flaws in the studies were spotted quite quickly by concerned members of both the ecological and epidemiological communities alike, and a few teams got started on responses.

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