ECOVAR: Managing ecosystems in an increasingly variable world

About the project

Global climate change is altering not only long-term average conditions, but also the short-term variability of environmental drivers. However, biological research has so far largely focused on changes in means, and we have only limited knowledge of the effects of changing variability, or how these may depend on the mean (interactive effects). Knowledge on how environmental variability affects rates of population growth is of fundamental importance to our understanding of eco-evolutionary dynamics of populations and communities, dynamics that shape important biological properties like abundance, trait distributions, community composition and species interactions. It is also essential for developing management strategies advocated to deal with climate change. Theory predicts that both positive and negative effects of increased variability on long-term population growth are possible, but the underlying mechanisms to such responses are still poorly understood for most species. This project will advance our knowledge of biological responses to climate variability, through a synergistic combination of approaches: Theoretical analyses using stochastic population and food-web models, comparative analyses using the demographic databases COMPADRE and COMADRE, and a detailed experimental study with Daphnia magna. Combined, these approaches will improve our understanding of the links from underlying life history properties to ecosystem responses to climate variability.



Figure. An overview of the levels at which we will investigate consequences of changing variability. Changes in external drivers trigger the responses of individuals (vital rates), affecting populations and ultimately ecosystems (where dynamics of one species act as a driver for interacting species).



This project is funded by The Research Council of Norway over the KLIMAFORSK programme.



  • Martijn van de Pol and Callum Lawson, Netherlands Institute of Ecology, Wageningen, Netherlands
  • Nigel Yoccoz,  UiT the Arctic University of Norway 
  • Jan Ohlberger, University of Washington, Seattle, USA
  • Rob Salguero-Gómez, University of Oxford, U. K.


Start: 1.7.2015. End: 31.12.2020.

Tags: USA, Nordic, The Netherlands, United Kingdom
Published Aug. 26, 2015 1:55 PM - Last modified Feb. 2, 2021 10:07 AM