Submitted to: Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: June 10, 2008
Publication Date: June 10, 2008
Citation: Peters, D.C. 2008. Ecology in a connected world: A vision for a "network of networks". Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. 6(5):227-284. Interpretive Summary: We live in a connected world, as evidenced by the spread of diseases globally and the propagation of events such as Hurricane Katrina. As ecologists, we need a better understanding of the role of connectivity in determining ecosystem dynamics. Connectivity is defined as the transfer of materials by wind, water, humans, and animals. This transfer of materials can occur both between adjacent locations as well as between non-contiguous locations, and can create ecological surprises. As ecologists, we need new approaches that recognize these connections such that surprises can be avoided or their effects minimized. In this special issue, in the overview paper we provide a new conceptual framework for addressing connectivity across a range of spatial and temporal scales. In the subsequent five papers, we apply this framework to key topics and pressing problems, including the spread of invasive species and infectious diseases; climate change and aquatic systems; climate change and coastal systems; climatic and societal gradients across landscapes; and climate change and terrestrial systems. Because global change drivers of climate and landuse affect connections among locations, connectivity will be an increasingly important aspect of ecological systems in the future.
Technical Abstract: This special issue addresses the importance of connectivity in driving ecosystem dynamics. Connectivity is defined as the transfer of materials by wind, water, humans, and animals. Although it is well-recognized that we live in a connected world, it is less well-appreciated that these interconnections can determine ecosystem dyamics across a range of spatial and temporal scales, and in particular at regional to continental scales. The six papers in this issue provide examples of research questions and approaches necessary for conducting research at the continental scale. These papers address questions such as: what are the consequences of connectivity, not only at the global scale, but also at relevant continental, regional, and local scales? how do we identify connections among non-adjacent and seemingly disconnected locations, to both minimize the element of surprise and mitigate or avert potential impacts? how do we adjust our thinking about ecological systems and modify our sampling strategies to account for the fluxes and flows of materials among locations? New insights are discussed for five topics (spread of invasive species and infectious diseases, climate change and aquatic systems, climate change and coastal systems, climatic and societal gradients across landscapes, climate change and terrestrial systems) that are critical elements of our connected world, now and in the future.