Ecological and Evolutionary Modelling

Ecological and Evolutionary Modelling

Cang Hui & Pietro Landi
Published in: Springer
Release Year: 2018
ISBN: 978-3-319-92150-1
Pages: 94
Edition: First Edition
File Size: 3 MB
File Type: pdf
Language: English

Description of Ecological and Evolutionary


Ecology is the scientific study of the abundance and distribution of species, the interactions among organisms and feedback from their environments, and was known in previous decades as natural history. It concerns the fluctuation and entanglement of genes, populations, species, and ecosystems, from a single pond to the entire planet. The philosophy of ecology runs deep in the veins of the human civilization, which has tried to identify humanity’s position and role in nature, spanning many ancient philosophies that treated nature with awe and as an equal power, and religions that considered nature as something to be subdued, controlled and ruled over. Modern ecology blossomed in the eighteenth century, its champions Carl Linnaeus and Alexander von Humboldt, followed by Charles Darwin, then Arthur Tansley and Charles Elton, and reached a golden age in the era of Robert MacArthur, with many who remain active in the field.
Facing an unprecedented rate of biodiversity loss, we need to ponder upon the origin, function and adaptive changes of biodiversity – to date still the only known whole living system. Erwin Schrödinger asks, what is life? The functioning of adaptive, complex, living systems requires a grand framework to define it. All living things are made of cells, and fossil evidence suggests the first true cells were submarine hydrothermal microorganisms, which first inhabited the Earth 3.7 billion years ago. Once the seed was planted, nature then molded the living form for numerous functions, branching into a grand tree of life. With the first fossil of comb jellies, Ctenophora, dating back 550 M years and the first brain structure in worms 500 M years ago, we are currently living together with more than 10 M strong species – not counting those lifeforms now extinct. How does such grandeur of biodiversity originate, interact and share limited habitats and niches on the cosmic pixie-dust of our blue planet? This is the mainstream of ecology: it is about the persistence and coexistence of species, the structure, and function of biodiversity.
As the stewards of nature, contemporary ecologists are facing mounting challenges to ensure crucial ecosystem services through biodiversity monitoring and conservation, by sustaining interactions and feedback among multiple components and processes that foster species persistence and coexistence. Supported by Big Data from field surveys and laboratory experiments, from Earth observation systems and molecular biology advancement, and empowered by striking computational power, ecological modellers are now for the first time able to weave the threads of our knowledge with data into models across a grand range of scales and complexities, enabling true comprehension and valuable forecasts. This calls for many talented scholars to join forces and take on the global endeavor of ecological modelling and biodiversity informatics.
Mathematics is the most beautiful conjecture and the most powerful tool born of human ingenuity. It is without doubt that mathematical minds have worked throughout the early conceptualization and later development of ecological theories. However, the walls between disciplines have hampered the flourish of
this inter- and transdisciplinary field. Mathematicians often have vague concepts f ecology and evolution, while ecologists are becoming increasingly aware of the need for mathematical and quantitative methodologies in their research. As such, we introduce in this book a set of key concepts and modeling techniques in ecology and evolution. Topics covered in this book are by no means complete, but we hope they can serve as bridges to bring the possibilities of mathematics and ecology together. We hope that readers will consider not only the essential concepts in ecology and evolution but also the various standard mathematical and numerical tools used for exploration. To this end, the book can be considered an ensemble of selected topics to facilitate both ecological understanding and mathematical implementation. Due to the contextual dependence of ecological systems, we hope that like-minded scholars can learn the philosophy and procedure for the model formulation, eventually to derive their own models for related systems. Let it be a hitchhiker’s guide to both fields.
Throughout our writing journey in the past year, we have been greatly inspired by many colleagues to whom we own our appreciation (in alphabetical order): Åke Brännström, Richard Condit, Fabio Della Rossa, Fabio Dercole, Ulf Dieckmann, Gordon Fox, Klaus von Gadow, Laure Gallien, Alessandra Gragnani, Jessica Gurevitch, Fangliang He, Bill Kunin, Guillaume Latombe, Pierre Legendre, Zizhen Li, Jingjing Liang, Meloide McGeoch, Aziz Ouhinou, Anton Pauw, Carlo Piccardi, Dave Richardson, Sergio Rinaldi, James Rodger, Anna Traveset, James Vonesh, Feng Zhang, and all the members of the Mathematical Biosciences Hub at Stellenbosch University. We are also grateful to our many research grants and fellowships awarded to us by the National Research Foundation of South Africa, DST/NRF Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology, DST/NRF Centre of Excel- lence for Mathematical and Statistical Sciences, Stellenbosch University subcommittee B, African Institute for Mathematical Sciences in Cape Town, National Science Foundation of China, Australian Research Council, and Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD). We would also like to thank our families and friends for their support: CH thanks Beverley, Keira and Zachary; PL thanks Cecco, il Lando, Roland e Adele; HOM thanks Ando and Vahatra; AR thanks Andry Kilome; all of us thank Vanessa du Plessis, Jonathan Downs, Sanjana Sundaram, Anthony Dunlap and Janet Slobodien for logistics. We hope you enjoy the book as much as we do.

Content of Ecological and Evolutionary


1 Biodiversity ............................................. 1

2 Spread . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25

3 Evolution . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41

4 Networks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61

Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 85
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