Navigation Links
Understanding the past and predicting the future by looking across space and time
Date:5/24/2013

MADISON, Wis. Studying complex systems like ecosystems can get messy, especially when trying to predict how they interact with other big unknowns like climate change.

In a new paper published this week (May 20) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from the University of WisconsinMadison and elsewhere validate a fundamental assumption at the very heart of a popular way to predict relationships between complex variables.

To model how climate changes may impact biodiversity, researchers like Jessica Blois and John W. (Jack) Williams routinely use an approach called "space-for-time substitution." The idea behind this method is to use the information in current geographic distributions of species to build a model that can predict climate-driven ecological changes in the past or future. But does it really work?

"It's a necessary assumption, but it's generally untested," says lead study author Blois, a former postdoctoral fellow with Williams at UWMadison. She is now an assistant professor at the University of California, Merced. "Yet we're using this every day when we make predictions about biodiversity going into the future with climate change."

Their results should give other ecologists and potentially others such as economists who use similar models more confidence in their methods.

"At these spatial and temporal scales, the space-for-time assumption does work well," says Williams, professor of geography and director of the Center for Climatic Research at the UWMadison Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. "Our fossil data did support the idea that you can use spatial relationships as a source of information for making these predictions for the future."

Their research focus is paleoecology, the study of ancient ecosystems. By looking at fossilized pollen trapped in cores of sediment from the bottoms of lakes, the scientists reconstructed information about the plant communities present at locations across eastern North America during the past 21,000 years.

If climate has influenced communities the same way across space and through time, Blois explains, then a model based on the spatial data should make the same predictions as a model based on their temporal data. And in fact, they did.

The space-for-time model explained about 72 percent of the variation seen in their time data, and the remainder is likely due to other biological and environmental factors that the simplified model does not include, Blois says.

Though the testing does not capture all the ways space-for-time substitutions are used in other predictive fields, she says that the results are very encouraging for questions spanning large geographic and time scales scales at which collecting good temporal data can be very challenging.

"We found that at these broad time scales we're looking at, that space does substitute for time relatively well," Blois says. "It makes me more confident in my analyses going forward."


'/>"/>

Contact: Jessica Blois
jblois@ucmerced.edu
209-228-2256
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Study amplifies understanding of hearing in baleen whales
2. New genetically engineered mice aid understanding of incurable neuromuscular disease
3. New data improve understanding of breast cancers multiple varieties
4. Understanding why some people have propensity to disease
5. Understanding the RNAi Reagents Market Overlap with Drug Discovery and Therapeutic Development is Critical for Pharmaceutical Leaders
6. Zebrafish could hold the key to understanding psychiatric disorders
7. A trained palate: Understanding complexities of taste, smell could lead to improved diet
8. New understanding of terrestrial formation has significant and far reaching future implications
9. Understanding faults and volcanics, plus life inside a rock
10. Discovery increases understanding how bacteria spread: U of A study
11. Stem cell research aids understanding of cancer
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:11/29/2016)... -- BioDirection, a privately held medical device company developing ... of concussion and other traumatic brain injury (TBI), announced ... with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ... the meeting company representatives reviewed plans for clinical development ... of a planned pilot trial. "We ...
(Date:11/24/2016)... Cercacor today introduced Ember TM Sport ... non-invasively measure hemoglobin, Oxygen Content, Oxygen Saturation, Perfusion ... in approximately 30 seconds. Smaller than a smartphone, using ... to key data about their bodies to help monitor ... Hemoglobin carries oxygen to muscles. When hemoglobin ...
(Date:11/19/2016)... 2016 Securus Technologies, a leading provider of ... investigation, corrections and monitoring, announced today that it has ... have an independent technology judge determine who has the ... tech/sophisticated telephone calling platform, and the best customer service. ... most of what we do – which clearly is ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:12/2/2016)... ... December 01, 2016 , ... ... DNA microarray comparative genomic hybridization (array CGH) for HER2 genomic subtyping in ... molecular test results from tumors with previously documented positive, negative, and equivocal ...
(Date:12/2/2016)... ... 01, 2016 , ... The Conference Forum has announced that the 3rd annual ... place on February 1-3, 2017 at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City. Led ... a unique 360-degree approach, which addresses the most up-to-date information regarding business aspects, clinical ...
(Date:12/2/2016)... ... December 02, 2016 , ... ... dedicated to collaboratively developing improved chemistry, manufacturing and control technologies for the ... UHPLC, with robust, probe-based sampling. , Online liquid chromatography analysis is ...
(Date:12/2/2016)... , December 2, 2016 The ... 2021, growing at a CAGR of 7.3% during the forecast period ... hospitals and diagnostic laboratories segment accounted for the largest share of ... ... report on global immunohistochemistry (IHC) market spread across 225 pages, profiling ...
Breaking Biology Technology: