Conceptual unification of theoretical approaches

Physics textbooks stay at about the same length over time because experiments and observations falsify old theories at the same time that they catalyze new ones. But ecology texts grow ever longer, because older theories stick around even as new ones pile up. —Stefano Allesina

Many theoretical approaches coexist on the same ecological issue. This generates a source of context-dependency in practice: seemingly incompatible theoretical and computational approaches on the same ecological issue. My work has bridged different theoretical approaches on measuring species interactions, species coexistence, and ecosystem resilience, by showing under what conditions these approaches tell a similar story, and what can be learned when they do not coincide.

  • Focusing on measuring species interactions, I have bridged the parametric and nonparametric approaches, which revealed two new properties of non-equilibrium dynamics that cannot be revealed without bridging these approaches (Oikos, in revision).
  • Focusing on studying the mechanisms of species coexistence, I have combined the strengths of Modern Coexistence Theory and Structural Approach, which revealed a new method to disentangle environmental perturbations (Am. Nat., 2019; J. Ecol., 2020).
  • Focusing on measuring ecosystem resilience, I have merged the dynamical stability-based and structural stability-based indicators, which revealed a new classification of ecosystem resilience (J. Anim. Ecol., in press).

In addition, my work has also provided new insights to reconcile some long-standing theoretical debates:

  • the debate on the relationship between diversity, stability, and feasibility (Ecology, 2018);
  • the debate on whether nestedness promotes mutualistic biodiversity (J. Anim. Ecol., 2017);
  • the debates on whether intra-specific variation promotes species coexistence (Ecol. Mono., in revision).
Chuliang Song
Chuliang Song

I am a theoretical ecologist driven by the curiosity of how biodiversity is generated and maintained.

comments powered by Disqus