2024 Gordon Conference “Unifying Ecology Across Scales” in New Hampshire

Miguel Araújo was invited as a speaker in the 2024 Meeting Unifying Ecology Across Scales Gordon Research Conference, which will be held at Southern New Hampshire University, United States, in the summer of 2024.

The Unifying Ecology Across Scales Gordon Research Conference is a premier, international scientific conference focused on advancing the frontiers of science through the presentation of cutting-edge and unpublished research, prioritizing time for discussion after each talk and fostering informal interactions among scientists of all career stages. The conference program includes a diverse range of speakers and discussion leaders from institutions and organizations worldwide, concentrating on the latest developments in the field.

The Anthropocene Epoch is named for the unprecedented impact of a single species – humans – on the diversity and functioning of life on Earth. Human impact has reached all corners of the globe due to the circulation of pollutants, changes to communities from harvesting pressures, human-aided movement of invasive species, and the altered composition of the atmosphere. Impacts on populations and communities often begin at the molecular or physiological level, through the effects of toxins, temperature, or other abiotic factors. These impacts scale up to cell and organismal levels, potentially altering demography, and therefore rates of population growth. Changes in population growth can change the relative abundance of species in communities, further altering species interactions and therefore community functioning and diversity. Understanding how natural systems respond to human impacts thus requires ‘scaling up’ across levels of organization. This scaling up requires the integration of concepts, theories, and empirical approaches linked to many types of biological research, from genetics and physiology to ecology and evolutionary biology. The Unifying Ecology GRC will bring together researchers to focus on understanding and predicting ecological change in the Anthropocene through the integration and unification of diverse fields of biological research.

Miguel’s talk will have the following title and abstract:

Biodiversity Modeling: From Individuals to Communities

In the past two decades, there has been a significant increase in studies using models to understand and predict the impact of environmental changes on biodiversity. Typically, these studies begin by examining the relationship between species distributions and environmental variables, based on the assumption that the environment determines the limits of tolerance for species survival. As a result, alterations in environmental conditions are expected to lead to shifts in species distributions. However, a major shortcoming of existing models is their singular focus on individual species. Although these models can be applied to thousands of species at once, they often treat each species as an independent entity, reacting in isolation to environmental changes. This approach neglects the complex dynamics within ecological communities, where collective species responses to environmental changes are not merely the sum of individual responses. While incremental improvements to existing models are possible, progress necessitates the development of models that capture the responses of entire communities to environmental change. I suggest a promising direction would be to shift from the traditional environmental-limiting niche theory, which is applicable to individual species, to a resource-limiting niche theory. This approach considers the impact of the environment on the coexistence of multiple species within communities, providing a more comprehensive understanding of ecological dynamics.