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Posts from the ‘Biodiversity’ Category

Biodiversity and ecosystem functioning- new paper in Ecology Letters

We tend to assume that if there are more species in a given site that this typically leads to a better functioning ecosystem with for instance a higher production of biomass. In a new paper in Ecology Letters, we show that this is invalid. It’s not how many species that are present that matters, it’s how many species that had an opportunity to be present (the regional species pool) that determines functioning.

This illustrates that we need to conserve regional biodiversity to support our ecosystem services even when local biodiversity is not declining.

The paper is lead by James Hagan, an ex MSc student from our department at VUB and Tropimundo alumnus. He’s enrolled at the University of Gothenburg under supervision of Lars Gamfeldt and co-supervised by Bram.

83. Hagan, J., Vanschoenwinkel, B. & Gamfeldt, L. (2021) We should not necessarily expect positive relationships between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in observational field data. Ecology Letters (in press).

A process based metacommunity framework – new paper in Ecology Letters

Bram was part of a working group hosted by the German Integrative Biology Institute in Leipzig that had the ambition to better understand how communities interact in space by including a much needed temporal dimension. In a first paper lead by Patrick Thompson, we present a novel framework to understand (and study) how ecological communities can interact in space and how this leads to different temporal dynamics in community data. Instead of trying to infer process from community patterns, this framework explicitly varies three underlying processes (density dependent competition, density independent environmental filtering and dispersal) and shows that by doing this a whole range of possible metacommunity dynamics can be obtained including all currently known and described dynamics as well as a range of dynamics that have remained unconsidered and unstudied.

We believe it can be an important first step to achieve a much needed synthesis in the field of metacommunity ecology.

The study was published as an “Idea and perspectives” piece in the journal Ecology Letters



Where does land use matter most? – new paper in Sci. Tot. Env.

The lab is active in Tanzania in an inter university collaboration with the Nelson Mandela Institute for Science and Technology in Arusha. In one of the first papers of this project, Grite Nelson shows that studies of river quality and integrity should cautiously infer the influence of surrounding land use activities. Water quality and biota responded to land use at differentn scales.  What is more, the spatial buffers used to calculate land use had a strong impact on the detected land use effects. The work stresses the need to standardize approaches to investigate effects of land use on different aspects of river quality.

The paper is out in the journal Science of the Total Environment

Workshop: Uncoupling a meaningful life from the destruction of nature

Workshop picture

In a joint VUB Global Minds project between VUB and the University of the Free State, South Africa, we generated course material that can be used to organize workshops for university students (both in developing and in developed nations) to tackle the important question of whether it is possible to lead a meaningful life without destroying nature.  Participants fill out standardized scientific questionnaires that test:

1. Meaning in life (how meaningful do you find your life?)

2. Ecocentricity (how is your life connected to nature?)

3. Ecological footprint (to what extent does your life style impact nature?)

By correlating the scores of participants on these different tests our aim is to raise awareness to what extent these life traits are correlated. What is more, if applied to a large number of participants from different backgrounds and cultures it can also allow to generate more generic insights in how these concepts are connected globally. A first work shop took place at VUB on December 4th.

 The supporting electronic course material can be downloaded  here

and here

Below are some photos from the event 

Mossing around

Mosses are more than just plants, for a wild variety of tiny animals, moss patches are veritable jungles. Yet, few animal ecologists have ventured into this world (but see and see). We did a first field survey to study spatial variation in biodiversity on moss islands that form on tree trunks. It was a small project that formed the BSc thesis of Mario Driesen and under supervision of Hendrik Trekels. In this pilot study we wanted to test whether typical island biogeography principles apply to moss islands. Despite the insular structure, small scale variation in isolation and island size don’t seem to matter for biodiversity. Canopy cover was the most important environmental variable. However, overall, we conclude that invertebrate composition in moss patches may not only depend on local patch conditions, in a particular moss species. It also depended on the presence of other moss species in the direct vicinity which can be dispersal sources of other species.

The work has been published in Acta Oecologica


A moss island in the Sonian forest


Mario in the field (albeit not in the Sonian forest)

Expedition to the Australian outback 2013


Sunset at our campsite at Walga Rock


Where we are going we don’t need roads

During the 2013 expedition we sampled a total of 600 rock pools from 50 inselbergs in Western Australia. The dataset wil be used to get more insight in the drivers of diversity patterns across spatial scales.


Sampling a rock pool community on Baladgie Rock overlooking a salt lake


A typical example of a West Australian inselberg in the Cue area in Western Australia