Starting grant 101076740: Elemental ecology: towards an element-based functional ecology (STOIKOS*)
PI: Marcos Fernández Martínez
Pictures by Marcos Fernández, Roger Grau, ICOS, PP Systems
Elementomes and elemental diversity as drivers of ecological interactions and ecosystem functioning
Life on Earth, as we have known it for millennia, is at stake. Human activities are putting all kinds of ecosystems under increased stress because of land-use change and the alteration of the biogeochemical cycles of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and carbon (C), thus inducing climate warming. Functionally diverse ecosystems are more productive and stable than less diverse ones, and biogeochemical changes affect both biodiversity and the elemental composition of organisms (their elementome), changing how they and their ecosystems function. It is, therefore, imperative to provide evidence about how the interactions between elementomes, biodiversity, and climate drive ecosystem functioning if we are to avoid the serious threat of reducing essential resources for life within the context of global change. STOIKOS will achieve an in-depth understanding of the interaction between elementomes and biodiversity in determining ecosystem functioning by introducing the concept of elemental diversity, and moving functional ecology from using functional traits to elementomes, an easy and universal way to compare all sort of organisms. STOIKOS will particularly test the hypothesis that community-weighted elementomes and elemental diversity explain ecosystem functioning better than functional traits and their diversity. STOIKOS will integrate data from observations (field campaigns), long-term monitoring sites, microcosm experiments and theoretical modelling to provide synergies amongst their outputs to build the foundations of an elemental-based ecology. This will allow STOIKOS’ hypotheses to be tested at the individual, species and community/ecosystem scales using new and game-changing methodologies and study systems. The cutting-edge science of STOIKOS will not only provide the foundations of an elemental-based ecology, but will also deliver new ecological theory and methodological tools that will help us predict the future of ecosystems and assess the fragility of our biosphere.
* Derived from the Greek stoicheiódis oikología (elemental ecology).