Ecology of Ecosystems

Ecosystems are one of the basic units of ecology: combinations of organisms and inorganic environmental features that interact at multiple spatial and temporal scales. A forest on the side of a mountain, a tree in that forest, or a leaf on that tree are all examples of ecosystems. Despite their obvious differences in size, each comprises trophic interactions and exchanges of materials with their surroundings. In a trophic interaction a consumer—e.g., a plant, an animal, a bacteria—consumes a resource, for instance, nutrients in the soil or another organism, to obtain energy, grow, and eventually reproduce. Exchanges of materials with the ecosystem’s surroundings comprise mobilising and transporting matter, energy, and information in time and space. Trophic interactions within ecosystems and cross-ecosystem exchanges weave a network that spans the globe, supporting life everywhere.

Conceptual roadmap to study consumer effects on ecosystem dynamics, integrating methods and techniques to account for both trophic interactions and exchanges of materials across ecosystem boundaries. From Ellis-Soto et al. (2021).

My work focuses on investigating and understanding how cross-ecosystem exchanges modify the dynamics of ecosystems over time. I am also interested in how ecosystem characteristics—for instance, resource distribution in space and time—change the way organisms use their environment.

Relevant papers

  • Rizzuto M., Leroux S.J., Vander Wal E., et al. (2021) Forage stoichiometry predicts the home range size of a small terrestrial herbivore. Oecologia 197:327–338. DOI: 10.1007/s00442-021-04965-0

  • Heckford T.R., Leroux S.J., Vander Wal E., et al. (2021) Spatially explicit correlates of plant functional traits inform landscape patterns of resource quality. Landscape Ecology. DOI: 10.1007/s10980-021-01334-3

  • Ellis‐Soto D., Ferraro K.M., Rizzuto M., et al. (2021) A methodological roadmap to quantify animal‐vectored spatial ecosystem subsidies. Journal of Animal Ecology 90:1605–1622. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2656.13538

  • Richmond I.C., Balluffi-Fry J., Vander Wal E., et al. (2021) Individual snowshoe hares manage risk differently: integrating stoichiometric distribution models and foraging ecology. Journal of Mammalogy, gyab130. DOI: 10.1093/jmammal/gyab130

  • Balluffi-Fry J., Leroux S.J., Wiersma Y.F., et al. (2021) Integrating plant stoichiometry and feeding experiments: state-dependent forage choice and its implications on body mass. Oecologia. DOI: 10.1007/s00442-021-05069-5

  • Balluffi‐Fry J., Leroux S.J., Wiersma Y.F., et al. (2020) Quantity–quality trade‐offs revealed using a multiscale test of herbivore resource selection on elemental landscapes. Ecology and Evolution 10:13847–13859. DOI: 10.1002/ece3.6975