Extinctions and Ecosystem Stability
Licentiate thesis, 2019
This thesis builds on the long heritage of trying to understand stability of ecosystems, and the more recent use of dynamical modelling for this purpose. A contested issue in ecosystem research is the role of complexity in facilitating stability. Complexity being an intuitive but not strictly defined concept including among others number of species, amount of interactions and structure of interactions. Irrespective of the role of complexity for ecosystem stability there is general agreement that there are limits to stability, in terms of some property, at which point an ecosystem if perturbed/pressured beyond it will transition to a qualitative different state.
This thesis shows that, contrary to previous conception, there are more limits of stability than one. The new limits revise the important transition points of an ecosystem and differentiate between different types of stability, which in turn have differing responses to disturbances of equal magnitude. Species extinctions are found as a mechanism to prevent collapse of an entire community and collapse is found to be divided into two types. The thesis also exposes certain types of constraints on the structures of interactions among species that have a large influence on the stability limits. Together these results give indication of important structures of ecosystems which determine response behaviour to a high degree, important when analysing systems and assessing their vulnerability in an uncertain environment.
Chalmers, Space, Earth and Environment, Physical Resource Theory, Physical Resource Theory 2
Pettersson, P, Savage, V, Nilsson Jacobi, M. Predicting Collapse of Complex Ecological Systems: Quantifying the Extinction Continuum.
Pettersson, P, Savage, V, Nilsson Jacobi, M. Stability of Ecosystems Enhanced by Biological Constraint.
Other Physics Topics
Chalmers University of Technology
Opponent: Anders Eriksson, King's College London, UK