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How is the complexity of interactions at multiple scales between different trophic
interactions and abiotic factors influencing ecosystem response to global climate
Ecosystems are composed of complex communities of organisms and abiotic factors
that interact at different temporal and spatial levels and respond and adapt to
changing environmental conditions. Interactions occur and can be measured at
different levels from molecular signaling (i.e. transcriptomics, proteomics,
metabolomics) to larger scale processes in the environment (i.e. predation,
competition, etc). Interactions are also regulated and influenced by dynamic abiotic
factors, space and time and happen across and between many trophic levels. A small
change in these dynamic systems can create cascade effects that are difficult to
model and predict and limit our possibilities of truly predicting the impact of global
climate change in short and long-term scenarios.
Clear understanding of the complexity of these networks will allow us to establish
more comprehensive models on how ecosystems respond to global change. It will
require proper documentation of biological diversity specially for groups that
control basic but fundamental processes such as decomposition and nutrient cycling
(bacteria and fungi) and it will facilitate our ability to determine core and functional
groups in ecosystems that are fundamental for stability and adaptation to changing
conditions ( reference). For example, the true impact of an emergent pathogen or
an invasive species in an ecosystem could be determined more accurately if we have
a better understanding of how the network and the different scenarios will
determine ecosystem response to a particular invasive organism or the loss of a
particular species (Blehert et al. 2009).
A true understanding of this level of complexity will require and will bring together
a true multidisciplinary group of scientists that could take advantage of new devices
to monitor environmental changes but also the new technologies to accuarately
measure how organisms respond at the molecular level (-omics) and how this
translates in adaptation and interactions with other organisms in the environment
(Sauer et al. 2007).
Our capacity to determine and predict ecosystem response to climate change had a
direct impact on political decisions, funding priorities, conservation strategies,
agricultural planning and health and food security. For example, the availability of
resources and response of agricultural systems are all subject to our capacity to find
the major players or factors that will reduce the impact of climate change in specific
areas. The establishment of system networks will help us determine species that are
a higher risk in fragile environments and will also facilitate the definition of
priorities for conservation efforts.
Blehert et al. 2009 . White Nose Syndrome: An emerging fungal pathogen?
Sauer Uwe, Heinemman Matthias, Zamboni N. 2007. Getting closer to the Whole
Picture. Science 316: 550-551.