Emergent global patterns of ecosystem structure and function from a mechanistic general ecosystem model

Harfoot, Michael B J, Newbold, Tim, Tittensor, Derek P, Emmott, Stephen, Hutton, Jon, Lyutsarev, Vassily, Smith, Matthew J, Scharlemann, Jörn P W and Purves, Drew W (2014) Emergent global patterns of ecosystem structure and function from a mechanistic general ecosystem model. PLoS Biology, 12 (4). e1001841. ISSN 1544-9173

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Abstract

Anthropogenic activities are causing widespread degradation of ecosystems worldwide, threatening the ecosystem services
upon which all human life depends. Improved understanding of this degradation is urgently needed to improve avoidance
and mitigation measures. One tool to assist these efforts is predictive models of ecosystem structure and function that are mechanistic: based on fundamental ecological principles. Here we present the first mechanistic General Ecosystem Model (GEM) of ecosystem structure and function that is both global and applies in all terrestrial and marine environments.
Functional forms and parameter values were derived from the theoretical and empirical literature where possible.
Simulations of the fate of all organisms with body masses between 10 mg and 150,000 kg (a range of 14 orders of
magnitude) across the globe led to emergent properties at individual (e.g., growth rate), community (e.g., biomass turnover
rates), ecosystem (e.g., trophic pyramids), and macroecological scales (e.g., global patterns of trophic structure) that are in
general agreement with current data and theory. These properties emerged from our encoding of the biology of, and
interactions among, individual organisms without any direct constraints on the properties themselves. Our results indicate
that ecologists have gathered sufficient information to begin to build realistic, global, and mechanistic models of
ecosystems, capable of predicting a diverse range of ecosystem properties and their response to human pressures.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Life Sciences > Evolution, Behaviour and Environment
Subjects: Q Science > QH Natural history > QH0001 Natural history (General) > QH0075 Nature conservation
Q Science > QH Natural history > QH0301 Biology > QH0540 Ecology
Q Science > QH Natural history > QH0301 Biology
Depositing User: Jorn Scharlemann
Date Deposited: 23 Apr 2014 10:42
Last Modified: 07 Mar 2017 03:03
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/48261

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