Using network ecology to understand and secure resilient agroecosystems
Dr Fred Windsor Speaker Bio
I am an ecologist interested in using network theory to understand how environmental change impacts the structure and function of ecosystems. In previous work I have investigated the role of contaminants in influencing the structure and function of river ecosystems. More recently I have been applying concepts from network ecology to understand the structure and function of socioecological systems in agricultural regions. The focus of our current work is to understand whether similar methods can be implemented to secure resilient food systems in the vitally important hotspots of diversity and agricultural production present in South America.
All species, including humans, are embedded within complex networks of interactions. In most studies, different networks (e.g. food webs, seed dispersal networks and pollination networks) have been separated and studied as unique entities. Through the adoption of methods from statistical physics the analysis of multilayer social and ecological networks is possible, giving insights into the robustness and resilience of multiple, interconnected networks. Here, we use such methods to understand the robustness of ecological networks in agricultural systems, investigating the reciprocal links between human decision-making networks and agroecosystem dynamics. We show that the managed removal of shared plant resources has variable impacts of different networks. Furthermore, it is apparent that the inherent links between each network generate differences in the observed robustness of individual networks.