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Ecosystem Vulnerability to Species Loss. Victoria Veshchinskaya ( Lomonosov Moscow State University, Russia) Åke Brännström (Evolution and Ecology Program, IIASA) Elena Rovenskaya (Advanced Systems Analysis, IIASA) Ulf Dieckmann (Evolution and Ecology Program, IIASA).

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ecosystem vulnerability to species loss
Ecosystem Vulnerability to Species Loss

Victoria Veshchinskaya (Lomonosov Moscow State University, Russia)

ÅkeBrännström (Evolution and Ecology Program, IIASA)

Elena Rovenskaya (Advanced Systems Analysis, IIASA)Ulf Dieckmann(Evolution and Ecology Program, IIASA)

loop over all ecosystem compartments

Motivation and Main Purposes

Modelling Concepts

Species losses have always occurred as a natural phenomenon, but the pace at which species are going extinct has recently accelerated dramatically as a result of human activities. The disappearance of a species can have far-reaching and often unexpected consequences for other species, since changes can propagate throughout ecosystems. Hence the following questions arise:

How does the collapse of one ecosystem compartment (species or functional groups) influence the remaining ecosystem compartments?

How is an ecosystem’s structure related to its vulnerability to compartment collapses?

  • Ecosystems are represented by directed network models
  • Starting with an ecosystem at equilibrium, a selected compartment collapses (is removed)
  • The changes propagate through the ecosystem over time due to the following rules:
    • The magnitude of the flows within the system and flows to the external environment depends on the donor species’ biomass
    • Incoming flows from the external environment are recipient-controlled

The structure of the ecosystem before compartment collapse is described by structural indicators

Statistical Analysis

  • Ecosystems with less connectance and more rich trophic structure tend to have the dominated compartment (collapse of this element exerts significant influence on the other compartments biomasses)
  • Ecosystems with more compartments are more vulnerable
  • More connected ecosystems with less number of compartments suffer less extinctions
  • The results show no effects of cycling flows and ecosystem total biomass on vulnerability indices

loop over time steps



Recalculation of stocks

Recalculation of flows

Initial data

  • (18 empirically derived balanced network models of aquatic ecosystems)

Compartment collapse

  • Correlations between structural indicators and vulnerability indicators are determined based on systematic investigations of collapse dynamics in the studied ecosystems
  • The vulnerability of the ecosystem to compartment collapse is assessed by the vulnerability indicators (based on the concepts of secondary species extinctions and biomass changes):

Examples of Ecosystems