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.

Axis 2 Themes:

Theme 2.1: Characterizing changes in biodiversity

Patterns of species abundance and community composition are changing at an accelerated rate in response to species extinction, introduction of new species, and changes in their environment. The objective of this theme is to characterize the extent of these biodiversity modifications in Quebec based on data from various sources. It will be based on several measures (magnitude and variance) related to biodiversity, including those on species abundance structure, dominance, biological traits, phylogenetic diversity and genetic diversity.

Theme 2.2: Causes of changes in biodiversity

The research on this theme focuses on identifying the causes of the changes observed in theme 2.1. The objectives here are to determine what are the environmental or  anthropogenic mechanisms responsible for changes in populations and communities, at several spatial and temporal scales. We want to understand the factors that promote or hinder a rapid population response to global change, and how alterations in structure and connectivity at multiple scales, including the landscape, can jeopardize population viability. Emphasis will be placed on synergies between drivers of change: for example, between global changes and habitat destruction, or between climate change and overexploitation of commercial species.

Theme 2.3: Impact of changes in biodiversity on the functioning of ecosystems

The objective of this theme is to determine the different mechanisms by which changes in biodiversity influence the processes involved in the functioning of ecosystems. QCBS researchers are teaming up to develop the ecological elements that constitute the pillars of the conceptual models of how biodiversity functions. Field studies provide essential information on spatial and temporal changes in species distribution and diversity, and experimental approaches are more likely to address questions related to the impacts of species extinctions on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. To carry out these studies, researchers are designing a new generation of experiments that reflect realistic scenarios of changes in biodiversity by manipulating species diversity, phylogenetic diversity and genetic diversity.

Theme 2.4: From the functioning of ecosystems to the services provided by these ecosystems

Changes in biodiversity and the functioning of ecosystems concern humankind because of their effects on the services they provide. The objective of this theme is to develop a theoretical framework that links the multiple ecological processes contributing to the services provided by ecosystems. This theoretical framework make it possible to explain whether synergies or conflicts are considered, or whether compromises are to be expected between the different ecological services provided by a human impacted environment. This theoretical framework is applied to case studies identified in theme 3.2 using a socioecological approach. The economic value of ecosystem services is assessed by the research activities of Axis 3.