Friday, August 10, 2012

ESA day 3: a meeting of meetings

Wednesday was a crazy day, bouncing between talks and one-on-one meetings. This is what ESA is about: connecting with friends and colleagues, and seeing exciting new science. There were a bunch of fun talks that introduced new ideas and concepts, or made connections between different approaches. Some of these talks included Dylan Craven, who linked plant functional traits to performance in secondary successional forests in Panama. In Nicholas Gotelli’s talk, he tried to reconcile thousands of museum ant records with ecological surveys to estimate abundance, distribution and numbers of ant species in the north east USA. Sam Scheiner discussed a new approach to combine phylogeny and traits at the community level.

There were also some talks that seemed to really resonate with me, and the audiences attending them. Katherine Richgels gave a very interesting talk on trematode metacommunities, where the primary patches (snails) live in other patches (ponds). The primary patches have unique dynamics, including movement. The environment and host abundance seem to strongly determine trematode community patterns.

Bruce Menge astounded his audience with a new hypothesis: the ‘intermittent upwelling hypothesis’ which states that ecological process rates should be maximized at intermittent upwelling coastal zones. He ran experiments on coasts around the world and showed that recruitment, herbivory and predation rates were all maximized when upwelling was intermittent.

Cecil Albert showed how a model can predict the effects of global change and landscape alteration. She used a ‘sandwich’ modeling approach, where vegetation structure is sandwiched between climate change influences at large scale and landscape change at smaller scales. The resulting vegetation changes can be used to predict responses from specific indicator species or ecosystem function. She then showed how different scenarios of landuse change (random habitat removal, zoning and protecting corridors) can result in different responses in indicator species.

Finally, Caroline Tucker* gave a great talk on the effects of global warming on changes in flowering time in competitive communities.  Most people assume that plants will flower earlier in a warmer world, but these predictions ignore competitive effects. Using a set of linked growth and phenology models, she showed that indeed plants increase growth and flower earlier with warming in the absence of competition. However, once you allow the species to compete, the advance in flowering time is unequal. Early species, which are generally released from competition will flower earlier. So too will late species which tend to be good competitors. However, intermediate species do not advance their flowering due to competition.

*Yes this is our Caroline Tucker.
**Caroline has been on me to post my Wed. talk summary for two days.

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