Ecological Research

, Volume 27, Issue 3, pp 495–507

Unravelling the dynamics of organisms in a changing world using ecological modelling

Miyadi Award

DOI: 10.1007/s11284-012-0928-6

Cite this article as:
Amano, T. Ecol Res (2012) 27: 495. doi:10.1007/s11284-012-0928-6


Understanding and predicting the dynamics of organisms is a central objective in ecology and conservation biology, and modelling provides a solution to tackling this problem. However, the complex nature of ecological systems means that for a thorough understanding of ecological dynamics at hierarchical scales, a set of modeling approaches need to be adopted. This review illustrates how modelling approaches can be used to understand the dynamics of organisms in applied ecological problems, focussing on mechanistic models at a local scale and statistical models at a broad scale. Mechanistic models incorporate ecological processes explicitly and thus are likely to be robust under novel conditions. Models based on behavioural decisions by individuals represent a typical example of the successful application of mechanistic models to applied problems. Considering the data-hungry nature of such mechanistic models, model complexity and parameterisation need to be explored further for a quick and widespread implementation of this model type. For broad-scale phenomena, statistical models play an important role in dealing with problems that are often inherent in data. Examples include models for quantifying population trends from long-term, large-scale data and those for comparative methods of extinction risk. Novel statistical approaches also allow mechanistic models to be parameterised using readily obtained data at a macro scale. In conclusion, the complementary use and improvement of multiple model types, the increased use of novel model parameterisation, the examination of model transferability and the achievement of wider biodiversity information availability are key challenges for the effective use of modelling in applied ecological problems.


Behaviour-based modelsGeneralised linear/additive modelsHierarchical modelsMacroecologyPhylogenetic generalised least-squares models

Copyright information

© The Ecological Society of Japan 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Conservation Science Group, Department of ZoologyUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK