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Harvard Forest Symposium Abstract 2010

  • Title: Modeling Community Assembly of the Inquiline Food Web in the Northern Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia purpurea)
  • Primary Author: Benjamin Baiser (Harvard Forest)
  • Additional Authors: Aaron Ellison (Harvard University)
  • Abstract:

    The stochastic order and timing of species arrival, known as community assembly, is recognized as having pervasive effects on the composition, structure, and functioning of ecological communities. Past studies of community assembly have been limited by at least one of the following constraints and therefore do not provide a complete picture of the role community assembly plays in the creation and maintenance of biodiversity. First, most studies have focused on the stochastic arrival of competing species, but predation has long been known to impact the structure of ecological communities in both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. Second, communities are often assumed to reach a stable equilibrium between species arrivals, but most ecological communities exhibit nonequilibrium dynamics. Lastly, community assembly studies are often relegated to theoretical or microcosm systems and rarely occur in naturally assembling systems.

    The inquiline community of the pitcher plant (Sarracenia purpurea) has long been recognized as an ideal system with which to develop and subsequently test ecological theories of community structure and food web dynamics. The stochastic arrival of inquiline species into multiple pitchers provides a series of natural microcosms in which to study community assembly in a multitrophic community. My research develops a dynamic food web assembly model of the Sarracenia food web that is parameterized with empirical parameter estimates derived from extensive field studies in the Sarracenia system. The model will be used to simulate food web assembly under equilibrium and non-equilibrium conditions and model hypotheses will be tested with empirical studies. Insights gained from tested hypotheses will elucidate the role of community assembly in structuring food webs.

  • Research Category: Biodiversity Studies
    Ecological Informatics and Modelling