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Contingency in ecology: how biogeography impacts food webs

March 20, 2015


Diane Srivastava, Professor
University of British Columbia


When:  Friday, March 20th @ 3:30 p.m.

Where:  Biology Lecture Theatre (Rm. 106), Biology/W.P. Thompson Building

Ecology has repeatedly been accused of being a messy or failed science, with ecological patterns only predictable only in terms of other fields of biology or in terms of stochastic processes. Detractors point out that even the same ecological community can show large geographic contingency: that is, large differences in its structure and function between different places in the world. In this talk, I demonstrate that such geographic contingency in the invertebrate food webs within bromeliads is actually quite predictable from a few key variables. Contrary to the common assumption that contingency destroys the generality in theory, I argue that understanding the specifics of why communities differ can instead lead to general ecological principles.