The scientific approach is based primarily on information contained in the spatial distribution of species, which has not yet been fully exploited. "To accomplish our goal, we take a radically different approach than previous attempts and adopt a spatially explicit perspective that will allow us to take significant steps towards a 'Unified Spatial Theory of Biodiversity'," explains Thorsten Wiegand. The researchers will be using one of the most extensive data sets currently available in the field of ecology - data from large, long-term research plots in tropical forests that are home to several hundred tree species and over 100,000 individual trees. The trees on these plots are surveyed every five years.
"The project consists of three components," explains Thorsten Wiegand. "In the first stage we will be using the latest spatial pattern analysis techniques to quantify the highly complex spatial structures in tropical forests." "At the same time," Andreas Huth adds, "We will be putting together a raft of individual-based, spatially explicit forest simulation models, ranging from simple 'neutral' models to detailed, process-based simulation models for forests. Our many years of experience of working with forest models such as FORMIND and FORMIX3 will be an advantage here." In the critical third step, the researchers will be applying model selection techniques to discover which of the simulation models best reflect the observed spatial structures. One of the particular challenges of the project is the high level of complexity of the spatial structures and interactions. The extensive analyses can only be successfully tackled in a large project and require a considerable amount of computing power.
Close partners of the project are Prof. Savitri Gunatilleke and Prof. Nimal Gunatilleke (University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka
|Contact: Tilo Arnhold|
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres