Predictive ecology and environmental change

Climate change is one of the biggest issues that we face in the next century. A lot of time, effort and money has been spent on understanding the physical science of climate change. However, the importance of the issue is not because of the direct effects of temperature, but the impact that these physical changes have on the world around us. Interestingly, there has been much less effort spent on understanding the impacts of climate change than on the physical science. In my view there is an urgent need to develop tools to allow robust predictions about the impact of issues like climate change, which are currently being done poorly. I think that we may need an approach that is informed by the ways in which systems biology and climate modelling use models based on the processes within the system which allow system-level properties to emerge from these processes (e.g. climate change emerges from climate models under certain scenarios of greenhouse gas emission). I suspect that a systems approach to this type of problem in ecology may be useful and could be developed using data on the behaviour of individual organisms.

Yosemite National Park

We have been working for some time on this project, and the current state of the project to describe lowland forest ecosystems in the UK can be found on this page:

Predictive ecology of lowland forest.

An illustration

We are now able to make projections for the future state of lowland forests in the UK. The clip below shows 40 years of succession in a four hectare plot of such a forest.

A 40 year simulation of a small patch of woodland, based on our parameterised models.