Collective Response from Individual Behaviour in Groups and Ecosystems

Founding Body: ERANET
Total grant: € 70k
Principal Investigator: Andrea Cavagna
Other participants:
Project duration: 2017-2019

Ecosystems are under pressure by global environmental changes and in no other case as in tropical rainforests the stakes are high. In this context it is essential to develop theoretical and modeling tools that can analyze available empirical data and predict how ecosystems respond and adjust to changes in their environmental conditions. Ecosystems, however, are large heterogeneous aggregates of interacting individuals belonging to different species, so that a global predictive analysis is very difficult. Progress, though, can be made once we realize that ecosystems are not chaotic structures, but rather they are organized into smaller scale homogeneous collective units of single species individuals; these collective units interact with each other and contribute to ecosystems global response to environmental stimuli. The project aims at developing an integrated approach to the study of ecosystems’ response and robustness in the face of global changes and threats through the understanding of how the single-species homogeneous group level behaviour scales up to the multi-species heterogeneous ecosystem level. To achieve this the project will use both experimental data and mathematical models, focusing on the key concepts of criticality, tipping points and across-system information transfer.