Ecological Network Resilience & Extinction Proxies - Updating Projections of Ecological Networks


Forecasting biodiversity and functioning changes to ecosystem composition and functioning under climate change requires using multi-species approaches that explicitly consider ecological interactions. Here, we propose a framework with which to incorporate considerations of (1) localised extinction risk proxies, (2) resilience mechanisms of ecological networks, and (3) extinction cascade directionality as a driving force of ecological change. These three aspects are seldomly considered when establishing ecosystems responses to climate change and biodiversity loss. Using this framework, we demonstrate that current practices may severely underpredict ecological change measured as loss of biodiversity and change in connectedness. Our novel framework which explicitly explores two-dimensional resilience landscapes defined by network resilience mechanisms (i.e., link loss sensitivity and realisation of rewiring potential) represents the most complete toolbox for assessment of vulnerability of ecological networks to extinction cascades. Ultimately, we propose that using localised extinction proxies, explicitly quantifying ecological network resilience through link-loss sensitivity and realisation of rewiring potential, as well as simulation of bidirectional extinction cascades will lead to improved capabilities of estimating ecosystem trajectories throughout the Anthropocene.

Erik Kusch
Erik Kusch
Senior Engineer & Research Infrastructure Manager

In my research, I focus on statistical approaches to understanding complex processes and patterns in biology using a variety of data banks.