The trait based approach to Ocean Ecology

Monday 13 Aug 18
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Thomas Kiørboe
Professor
DTU Aqua
+45 35 88 34 01

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Andre Visser
Professor
DTU Aqua
+45 35 88 34 25

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Ken Haste Andersen
Professor, Head of Section
DTU Aqua
+45 35 88 33 99

Marine ecosystems are overwhelmingly complex. The trait-based method offers a simple way to describe, model, and understand complex marine systems. In a new paper we describe the approach taken by the Centre for Ocean life and illustrate it with examples from our recent work.

Trait-based ecology is a rapidly developing branch of ecology. It describes ecosystems as consisting of individuals rather than species, and characterizes individuals by a few key traits that are interrelated through trade-offs. The fundamental idea is that the function of an ecosystem is shaped by the traits of individual organisms rather than by which species the organisms belong to. By focusing on just a few key traits we can reduce the complexity of the myriad of species in an ecosystem to predict the overall ecosystem function, and predict when and where specific trait combinations are successful. Our approach integrates laboratory experiments, mathematical modelling, and analysis of observational data. We describe the four components of the trait-based approach: (i) the identification of key traits and quantification of their trade-offs for the main life-forms in the ocean; (ii) the development of trait-based community and ecosystem models based on key traits and associated trade-offs; (iii) testing the models by comparing predicted trait distributions with those that can be observed in nature; and (iv) quantify ecosystem functions and assess the effects of environmental change from observed or modelled trait distributions. Our description is illustrated with multiple examples of life in the ocean from unicellular plankton to fish.

The paper can be found here

Kiørboe T, Visser AW, Andersen KH (2018) A trait-based approach to ocean ecology.  ICES J Mar Sci (2018), doi:10.1093/icesjms/fsy090

http://www.oceanlifecentre.dk/news/nyhed?id=F60B0C50-EABC-4468-B045-556D675633FF
23 OCTOBER 2018