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Understanding Ecosystem Dynamics within a Modular Framework

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Title: Understanding Ecosystem Dynamics within a Modular Framework
Author: Schonberger, Zachariah G.
Department: Department of Integrative Biology
Program: Integrative Biology
Advisor: McCann, Kevin
Abstract: Food web theory has been successful in using energetic models to understand how food webs are stabilized in space and time. In parallel, ecosystem theory has employed nutrient-limited ecosystem models to understand how limiting nutrients alter the structure and dynamics of food webs. Importantly, while food web theory has gained fundamental insights using a modular framework, ecosystem theory has largely overlooked the role of a key module – the autotroph-limiting nutrient (R-N) module – in modulating the dynamics of nutrient-limited ecosystem models. Here, I revisit the inherent stability of the R-N module and establish strong R-N interactions as potent stabilizers in higher order systems. I do this by first revisiting consumer-resource (C-R) theory and highlight the relationship between the structure of C-R interactions and predictable dynamical outcomes. I then translate this framework to R-N-based systems, showing the R-N module to behave as a coherent extension of current modular food web theory.
Date: 2020-08
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