Modelling the ecology and evolution of communities
This week in the macroevolution journal club we will read a paper entitled: "Modelling the ecology and evolution of communities: A review of past achievements, current efforts, and future promises" by Brännström et al. 2012.
Abstract: BACKGROUND: The complexity and dynamical nature of community interactions make modelling a useful tool for understanding how communities develop over time and how they respond to external perturbations. Large community-evolution models (LCEMs) are particularly promising, since they can address both ecological and evolutionary questions, and can give rise to richly structured and diverse model communities. Questions: Which types of models have been used to study community structure and what are their key features and limitations? How do adaptations and/or invasions affect community formation? Which mechanisms promote diverse and stable communities? What are the implications of LCEMs for management and conservation? What are the key challenges for future research?
MODELS CONSIDERED: Static models of community structure, demographic community models, and small and large community-evolution models.
CONCLUSIONS: Large community-evolution models encompass a variety of modelled traits and interactions, demographic dynamics, and evolutionary dynamics. They are able to reproduce empirical community structures. They have already generated new insights, such as the dual role of competition, which limits diversity through competitive exclusion yet facilitates diversity through speciation. Other critical factors determining eventual community structure are the shape of trade-off functions, inclusion of adaptive foraging, and energy availability. A particularly interesting feature of LCEMs is that these models not only help to contrast outcomes of community formation via species assembly with those of community formation via gradual evolution and speciation, but that they can furthermore unify the underlying invasion processes and evolutionary processes into a single framework.
KEYWORDS: Coexistence; Community ecology; Community evolution; Niche theory; Trait-based models