The tremendous variation in vegetation across the globe reflects the extensive differences in the diversity, structure, and functioning of ecosystems. These variations emerge through physiological, ecological, and evolutionary processes at different scales.
Current global vegetation models do not account for many of these variations and processes. The resulting uncertainties in such things as the distribution of key plant types limit the understanding of vegetation patterns in response to climate change and damage from fires, strong winds, heavy grazing, and harvesting – jointly known as disturbance events.
To address these challenges, IIASA’s Evolution and Ecology Program has developed a model describing how plant functional traits and the resulting vegetation properties change based on disturbance events and site productivity. At the same time, the Institute’s Ecosystems Services and Management Program has shown how an individual plant’s responses to global change, such as its ability to increase its CO2 concentration and nutrient deposition, can be explained by optimal acclimation.
Through collaboration between the two programs, this project will strive to combine these approaches by developing eco-evolutionary vegetation models that scale up individual eco-physiological processes to population-wide demographic changes in order to fully describe vegetation diversity, structure, and functioning. These models should improve the ability to predict vegetation responses to climate change and disturbance events and may interface with other IIASA frameworks for predicting anthropogenic impacts on ecosystems.
Last edited: 30 May 2012
2011 - 2015
International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
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