Integrating Information in Meta-ecosystems
Information, together with energy and matter, is one of the fundamental currencies of life. It is ubiquituous, scale-independent, and does not appear to abide by the laws of thermodynamics. Information underlies well-known ecological phenomena like trophic cascades (e.g., the landscape of fear), seasonal migrations (e.g., herbivores following green waves of plant blooms), and sexual selection (e.g., female choice of partner based on secondary sexual characteristics). While it has so far received less attention in ecological research than energy and matter, recently ecological information theory rose to the foreground — mostly through rising evidence of human-induced harmful effects on natural pathwyas of information exchange. I am co-leading a team of researchers and scholars from a variety of ecological backgrounds to develop a framework integrating biological information theory with meta-ecosystem theory. Metaecosystem ecology is a subfield of ecology that investigates the flows of energy, matter, and organisms that connect ecosystems in space. As biological information travels along all of these pathways, metaecosystem ecology is a natural fit for biological information theory. We hope that our work will provide useful insights to researchers investigating the effects of information on ecological systems, and help better account for the effects of human-introduced information.