The research fields community and ecosystem ecology have diverged more or less independently over the last decennia. In community ecology progress is made in understanding shifts in community composition under the influence of environmental change and how these shifts can be explained by functional trait approaches of component species. Also, the importance of positive feedbacks in community dynamics is more and more appreciated, and merged with trophic interactions in ecological networks. Studies in ecosystem ecology traditionally have a strong focus on energy and nutrient fluxes and how deviation in these fluxes affect ecosystem functioning and stability. Recent studies reveal tight links between these sub-disciplines that enforce us to rethink how communities and ecosystems interact.
This course focuses on theoretical concepts, such as autocatalytic loops and positive and negative feedbacks between organisms in ecological networks as well as the importance of non-trophic interactions by ecosystem engineers. The course will address how these principles can be used to link communities to ecosystems enabling a better understanding of how environmental changes affect community and ecosystem dynamics. Students will construct ecological networks of their own study system or based on literature data and analyse these using structural equation modelling.