Persistence, Coexistence, and Adaptation
: The Stability of Competitive Communities Subject to Environmental Change

Student thesis: Doc typesDocteur en Sciences


Anthropogenic global change has important impacts on ecological communities and their constituent populations as altered environmental conditions and demographic perturbations modify community dynamics and put their stability to the test. It is imperative that we have a mechanistic understanding of the effects of stressors and perturbations and that we are able to generate mechanistically-informed predictions and hypotheses. I employ both modelling (chapters 2 and 4) and experimental (chapters 3 and 5) approaches to broadly investigate how the stability of competitive communities varies as a result of environmental change and variable functional traits. I demonstrate that, broadly speaking, differences in population responses to combined stressor effects impacts diversity loss while the average stressor effect drives loss of functioning/biomass (chapter 2). Dynamic functional traits further influence the long-term stability of populations and including functional traits in forecasts of population growth can lead to improved model performance, exceeding density-dependence in its predictive capacity (chapter 3). Adaptation to stressed conditions can improve the resistance of communities to stress as well as allowing recovery but, within larger communities, it is not sufficient for a population to be adaptive, but it must be similarly adaptive to other competing populations to persist (chapter 4). Finally, trait-mediated growth is dependent on the type of model system being considered as well as how directly-linked the functional traits are to organismal fitness and, in cases, there exists potential for feedbacks between population growth and trait changes to complicate dynamics (chapter 5). In conclusion, this thesis further illustrates the complexity of ecological stability, and highlights that fitness and adaptation need to be framed in both absolute and relative contexts, as populations strive to persist and coexist.
la date de réponse13 déc. 2023
langue originaleAnglais
L'institution diplômante
  • Universite de Namur
SponsorsARC (Actions de recherche concentrées)
SuperviseurFrederik De Laender (Promoteur), Patrick Kestemont (Président), Frederic Silvestre (Jury), Sofia Van Moorsel (Jury), Anita Narwani (Jury) & Elisa Thébault (Jury)

Attachement à un institut de recherche reconnus à l'UNAMUR

  • ILEE
  • naXys

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