October 25 2017
12:00 LSB 2320
Department of Environmental Systems Science, ETH Zrich
Now is an exciting time to be an ecologist as the curiosity-driven motivations for our science converge with the need for ecological information relevant to addressing global environmental challenges. In the presentation, I will illustrate the importance of fundamental population and community ecology for predicting how changing competitive interactions influence plant speciesâ€™ responses to climate change. First, I will present results from field experiments in Switzerland showing how the novel competitive interactions that emerge when species asynchronously shift their ranges to track warming climate determine the fate of alpine plant species. I will then discuss how we can predict the identity of species engaging in these novel competitive interactions in the future. To this end, I will present experiments with a model plant species suggesting that rapid evolutionary changes can influence the rate at which plant populations spread, complicating efforts to forecast speciesâ€™ range dynamics based on their current demography. Finally, I will explore how we might predict the outcome of novel competitive interactions under climate change without the need for countless experiments. I will show how plant functional traits can be used to predict competitive dominance in a system of California annual plant species, but not these speciesâ€™ pairwise niche differences. I will conclude by using the findings presented here to argue for the highly interconnected nature of curiosity-driven ecological research and that motivated by the need to solve pressing environmental challenges.
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