Invited Speakers | Track 4

‘Networks within and between ecosystems’

Elizabeth Borer

Professor at University of Minnesota, USA – College of Biological Sciences

Elizabeth Borer’s research focuses on quantifying how global changes, including atmospheric pollution and species invasions and extinctions, change the composition and function of the world’s ecosystems. Most of her work is in grasslands where she studies the effects of these human changes on global biodiversity, disease transmission, and the identity and function of microbes inhabiting individuals (the “microbiome”). Since 2007, Borer has been co-lead of the Nutrient Network, a global scientific cooperative that now includes over 300 scientists performing identically replicated experiments at >130 sites in 27 countries spanning 6 continents to study the effects of global changes on critical processes and functions in the world’s grasslands. She is active in the US National Science Foundation Long-Term Ecological Research program, is an editor at two journals, and regularly serves on national and international scientific panels. Borer is a lifetime fellow of the Ecological Society of America, a Leopold Leadership fellow, and received the 2015 Alphonse J. Pauchon Foundation award for the Betterment of Mankind. Read more

Collaborative scientific networks can transform knowledge of Earth’s ecology

Ecological research is being transformed by increasing use of scientific collaboration by large groups of investigators to answer regional- and global-scale questions. The formation of ‘grassroots’ scientific groups is pioneering a new way to study the Earth. In particular, large group collaborations are being increasingly employed to overcome barriers to collection of directly comparable, spatially extensive observational and experimental environmental data. These networks are contributing in novel ways to our understanding of the biosphere and overcoming barriers to knowledge about our planet. I will focus on a case study, the Nutrient Network, a distributed, collaborative ‘grassroots’ scientific project. This organically formed group of scientists, spanning nearly 150 sites on 5 continents, is working together to develop a predictive understanding of links between biodiversity and ecosystem function, on one hand, and ongoing, global-scale changes to nutrient cycles and species distributions, on the other. While these challenges are global in scale, experiments and sampling to measure changes in community composition and function must be done at local scales. I will briefly discuss my experience with conceiving and implementing this globally distributed, collaborative network and will present some of the network’s insights into the role of mammalian herbivores and nutrients in controlling biodiversity and ecosystem processes in the world’s grassland ecosystems.

Ingrid van de Leemput

Assistent professor at Wageningen University – Aquatische Ecologie en Waterkwaliteitsbeheer

Ingrid van de Leemput works on understanding and measuring the resilience of various systems, ranging from ecosystems, to humans, to social systems. Van de Leemput has a background in theoretical biology. Since 2017, she is an assistant professor at Wageningen University, studying the resilience of complex systems from a theoretical perspective using dynamical systems models. Van de Leemput is in the core team of the Sparcs center, the synergy program for analyzing resilience and critical transitions. Furthermore, she is involved in several interdisciplinary programs, such as the Netherlands Earth Systems Science Centre, on improving the understanding of processes behind climate shifts, One Health PACT, on predicting arboviruses climate tipping points, and the recently funded INREF project Resilience of the Richest Reefs, on measuring social-ecological resilience and mapping future scenarios for some of the richest reefs of the world.

Resilience of complex systems

My primary line of research is on understanding, modelling, and monitoring the resilience of complex systems, ranging from ecosystems and climate to human health and emotions. I’m fascinated by methods and tools that can help us understand the mechanisms underlying complex dynamics, such as tipping points, cascades, and oscillations. I believe there is a lot to gain when closely working together with scientists from different disciplines. In this talk I will give a short overview of my work, presenting some of our newest tools and ideas on the resilience of complex networks. What determines resilience of humans, ecosystems, or social-ecological systems? What is the role of feedbacks, and coupling factors in network type of systems? What are tipping elements? How to measure resilience in (mulitivariate) timeseries, and can we use the information in such timeseries to indicate which parts of the system loose stability? While based on theory and modelling exercises, I will use as many examples as possible to illustrate the concepts and ideas.