Emergent clustering of species traits as a driver of biodiversity. Dr Rebecca Mancy, Social and Public Health Sciences Unit and Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine, University of Glasgow.
I will present work based on simulated communities of phytoplankton that demonstrates that, in the context of fluctuating resource constraints, biodiversity is maintained through an emergent pattern in which the traits of coexisting species form clusters. Using a well-established resource-competition model, my colleagues and I showed that a complex dynamic pattern in the available ambient resources arose very early in the self-organisation process and promoted the growth of species whose traits fell within one of a small number of clusters. These findings are consistent with the idea that biodiversity can be maintained through ‘lumpy coexistence’ [Scheffer M, van Nes EH (2006) Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 103:6230–6235]. I will expand on this work by exploring a possible way of quantifying biodiversity and its emergence. To do this, I will apply a novel approach to quantifying biodiversity that has been developed by my colleagues at the University of Glasgow, and discuss what it reveals about species clusters as functional groups.