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Integrated Niche Theory: linking environmental, compositional and functional change on coral reefs

Project description

A closer look at coral colonies to explore niche construction

Architectural settings and designs can be modified physical environments that meet human needs. The process by which humans or any organism alters its environment is known as niche construction. The ERC-funded coralINT project will focus on coral reefs to explore the ability to predict spatio-temporal change in biodiversity and the consequences of this change for ecosystem function. It will develop an integrated niche theory linking three niche concepts: Grinnell’s niche (what a species needs), Elton’s niche (what a species does) and niche construction (how species function changes the environment). The key to this lies in how species are sorted along each of the niche axes. The project will produce 3D maps following more than 100 000 coral colonies through time.

Objective

Idea: CoralINT aims to deliver the ability to predict spatio-temporal change in biodiversity and the consequences of this change for ecosystem function. To achieve this aim, I will develop an Integrated Niche Theory linking three niche concepts: Grinnell’s niche (what a species needs), Elton’s niche (what a species does) and niche construction (how the species function changes the environment). The key to this integration lies in how species are sorted along each of the niche axes (environmental gradients, functional rates and niche construction rates). I will map the dynamic implications of different types of bivariate sorting to the development of positive and negative feedback loops. This new theory will allow predicting the indirect consequences of selection on one axis to change along the other two axes. I will test INT with environmental, compositional, and functional data extracted from 3D maps of coral reefs and its coral inhabitants. Ground breaking features: CoralINT sits at the interface between theory development and cutting-edge empirical data. I anticipate coralINT will produce 3D maps for a total area of >26,600 m2 with mm scale resolution, distributed among 100 sites along a 2,000 km latitudinal gradient. Within these maps we will follow >100,000 coral colonies through time, measuring and inferring structural and demographic rates across >200 species and environmental variation in space and time. Working at organismal and ecosystem scales will enable coralINT to develop mechanistic understanding of the processes connecting environmental, compositional and functional change. Objectives: develop a new Integrated Niche Theory; quantify the effects of the environment on corals’ distribution and functional rates; determine if function can be predicted from coral and reef structural traits; quantify the prevalence and evolutionary implications of coral niche construction. Feasibility:We have collected proof of concept data for each data type.

Host institution

FACULDADE DE CIENCIAS DA UNIVERSIDADE DE LISBOA
Net EU contribution
€ 363 435,15
Address
CAMPO GRANDE C5 PISO 3
1749-016 Lisboa
Portugal

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Region
Continente Área Metropolitana de Lisboa Área Metropolitana de Lisboa
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
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Total cost
€ 1 999 995,00

Beneficiaries (2)