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Species are to ecosystems as cells are to the human body, according to a mathematical model
Date:5/16/2011

This release is available in Spanish.

These scientists have developed a mathematical model that recreates the behavior of an ecosystem in order to observe its dynamics and its reactions in different situations. And what they have discovered is that the ecosystem reaches a state in which it remains more or less unchanged, in spite of the fact that the species that make it up are continuously substituted by others, even to the point that a complete change takes place, similar to the change that occurs inside a human organism. "In short: the species change, but the structure does not", comments Professor Jos A. Cuesta, one of the authors of the study, along with Jos A. Capitn. Both are members of the Mathematics Department of UC3M. Jordi Bascompte, of the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientficas (CSIC the Spanish National Research Council), is the third author of the study, which was recently published in the Journal of Theoretical Biology.

The authors comment that from this perspective, it could be stated that multiccellular beings are also ecosystems. That is, we are formed by different types of cells that cooperate and compete for resources; we are colonized by diverse types of bacteria (in the intestines, in the skin, etc.) whose activity is linked to other processes in our organism: we are invaded by viruses, which can be harmful or can take part in processes that regulate our DNA. "These beings are constantly being changed, in such a way that after a long enough time passes, all of the entities that form us have been substituted one or more times. Nevertheless, throughout the process, we continue to be ourselves. This is the same thing that happens with ecosystems," explains Prof. Cuesta.

The most important implication of this finding is that it forces us to see ecosystems in a different light, as self-contained entities r
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Contact: Ana Herrera
oic@uc3m.es
Carlos III University of Madrid
Source:Eurekalert

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