Conference in Ghent, Belgium

Ecology Across Borders: Joint Annual Meeting (11th to 14th December 2017)

The conference venue: Ghent ICC

Abstract of my talk

What should we plant to increase ecosystem service supply in the long-term?

Sebastian Fiedler, José Monteiro, Michael P. Perring, Britta Tietjen

The delivery of many ecosystem services that people rely on for their well-being is declining world-wide. This decline is likely to continue in the light of multiple global changes (e.g. change in land use, nitrogen deposition, climate). Ecological restoration is increasingly touted as being a viable strategy to assist ecosystems in a way that improves their long-term supply of ecosystem services and makes them resilient to future threats, especially in biodiversity hotspots such as Mediterranean-type ecosystems. However, successful realisation of such a strategy requires a fundamental understanding of the link between ecosystem composition, related functions and ecosystem services, and influencing environmental factors. Measurable plant traits (e.g. height, specific leaf area, seed mass) have been recognised as such a link. Until now, however, trait-based research that addresses trade-offs among multiple ecosystem services under the impact of multiple environmental factors to reliably support restoration in Mediterranean-type ecosystems is missing. In our study, we started closing this gap by integrating empirical research and process-based simulation modelling approaches. We developed a trait-based eco-hydrological simulation model complementing an ongoing large-scale restoration project in Western Australia, the Ridgefield experiment. This spatially-explicit model explicitly links vegetation composition (consisting of individual plant functional types described by traits), ecosystem functions, and the provision of ecosystem services. For a given vegetation composition and other properties of the ecosystem (in terms of soil and climatic conditions) processes for vegetation, nutrient and water dynamics are calculated and the delivery of ecosystem services are quantified. In a full factorial design of different plant trait compositions and influencing environmental factors, trade-offs between services could be assessed, and the resilience of the ecosystem towards multiple factors of global change were tested. In particular, we found assemblages of plant traits that minimise trade-offs among ecosystem services under global change. These findings will aid in improving restoration towards the resilient long-term supply of multiple ecosystem services in Mediterranean-type ecosystems.