Environmental controls of community structure and ecosystem function: an assessment with cork oak (Quercus suber) communities in the Iberian Peninsula
A key impact of environmental change is to change the composition and abundance of species in ecological communities, i.e. community ‘structure’. Structural changes have knock-on effects for biodiversity and the ecosystem services on which human societies rely. It is therefore imperative to understand how ecological communities will respond to environmental change, in particular climate and land-use change.
The project will develop a database of species composition and functional profiles of all natural forest communities that are dominated by Quercus suber, i.e. cork oak forest, in the Iberian Peninsula. The data to be compiled are available at very high spatial resolutions. This study system is ideal for our purposes because it consists of several sub-communities with different species compositions across a large environmental and spatial gradient. We will therefore be able to use environmental variation over space as a substitute for environmental change over time.
With this database we will ask two questions. First, what is the best technique for modelling changes in the species composition and abundance across an environmental gradient? Second, do changes in species composition correspond to changes in functional composition across an environmental gradient? Finally, through collaboration with a sister project at CIBIO Porto, we will ask whether our measurements of functional profiles indeed capture a classical ecosystem property – resistance to invasion. In addition to answering these questions, we expect to be able to use QuerCom’s database to address several future questions in the newly-emerging but fast moving field of community biogeography.
Project reference: FCT “EXPL/AAG-GLO/2488/2013”
Project funded by: Fundo Europeu De Desenvolvimento Regional and Orçamento de Estado.