Axis 2

Linking Biodiversity to Ecosystems

Research goal: To develop General Biodiversity Functioning Models (GBFMs) that establish the link between the drivers of biodiversity change and the consequences of that change for ecosystem functioning and services.

The last decade has seen the emergence of new science linking biodiversity changes to ecosystem functioning. The theoretical and empirical basis of this link is now firm, and the science is now being extended to include ecosystem services.

QCBS researchers are experts in this area and are beginning to develop models that take into account spatial and temporal complexity (e.g. due to rapid evolution) that was ignored by early approaches. The GBFMs will contain several interlinked modules representing the biodiversity-ecosystem interaction, the socioeconomic system, and the major drivers of biodiversity change. Models will be developed in a series of workshops involving provincial, national and international researchers and tested with laboratory and field experiments. The models will be calibrated with social and ecological data from axis 3 and data from axis 1.

The initial goal is to demonstrate the feasibility of formalizing the role of biodiversity as an essential link between environmental change, ecosystem functioning, and human wellbeing. The long-term goal is to develop models that make probabilistic predictions about future impacts of ongoing biodiversity changes.

This axis draws upon the network of field stations and advanced laboratory facilities for experimental ecology and evolution maintained by the partner universities.

Axes 2 themes

Theme 2.1: Causes of Biodiversity Changes

The composition of natural communities is changing at an elevated rate as a joint response to the extinction of existing species, the introduction of new species and changes to the environment. Using data generated through work in axis 1, the aim of this theme is to determine the extent of biodiversity changes in Québec and identify the environmental factors driving them. The synergies among factors of change will be emphasized: for example, between climate change and habitat destruction.

Theme 2.2: Adaptation in Response to Environmental Changes

Research on this theme will is based on how populations and communities evolve in response to rapid anthropogenic environmental change. The objective is to determine what factors favor or prevent rapid adaptive responses to environmental change, how the resulting adaptation affects ecosystem functioning, and how alterations in landscape structure and connectivity threaten the viability of populations.

Theme 2.3: Effects of Biodiversity Changes on Ecosystem Functioning

The objective of this theme is to determine the different mechanisms by which changes in biodiversity influence the set of processes involved in the functioning of ecosystems. QCBS researchers in this team are working to develop the core ecological elements of global biodiversity function models. While field surveys provide much needed information on the changes in the distribution of species in time, experimental approaches address the impacts of species extinctions on freshwater and terrestrial ecosystem function. Approaches include both laboratory model systems, as well as  field manipulations using species “knock-out” experiments. To carry out these analyses, the researchers are designing a new generation of experiments that reflect realistic scenarios of changes in biodiversity by manipulating species, phylogenetic and genetic diversity.

Theme 2.4: From Ecosystem Functioning to Ecosystem Services

Changes in biodiversity and ecosystem functioning affect humans through the provision of ecosystem services. The objective of this theme is to develop a theoretical framework that links the multiple ecological processes contributing to the provision of ecosystem services. This theoretical framework should allow us to explain whether synergies have been considered, or if comprises are to be expected, among the different ecosystem services provided by a man-made environment. We will then apply the framework to case studies identified under theme 3.2. Economic valuation of these services will be a component of research activities within axis 3.