Gradients in a Tropical Mountain Ecosystem of Ecuador

Volume 198 of the series Ecological Studies pp 49-54

Investigating Gradients in Ecosystem Analysis

  • K. FiedlerAffiliated withDepartment of Population Ecology, Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Vienna
  • , E. BeckAffiliated withDepartment of Plant Physiology, Bayreuth Centre for Ecology and Ecosystem Research (BayCEER), University of Bayreuth

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Natural ecosystems are usually highly complex. They are built up by a multitude of organisms which interact with each other as well as with their abiotic (i.e. physical and chemical) environment. The more kinds of organisms thrive in an ecosystem, the more complex is its internal structure. For example, food web complexity is a function of the direct and indirect interactions between organisms, and this increases in a non-linear manner with the number of players. Food web complexity, in turn, affects emergent properties of ecosystems such as water and nutrient cycles, or the dynamics and resilience of the system in an unpredictable and changing environment. Accordingly, understanding the function of natural ecosystems becomes ever more challenging with increasing species richness.