Novel Perspectives on Plant-Soil Networks
Wednesday, August 12, 2015: 8:00 AM-11:30 AM
308, Baltimore Convention Center
Jennifer Adams Krumins, Montclair State University
Peter J. Morin, Rutgers University
In recent years, classical food web theory once limited to trophic relationships has evolved to embrace a variety of network interactions such as mutualisms and indirect effects. These new developments in ecological theory are challenging ecologists to rethink complexity, stability and how ecosystems will be affected by global change. Ecologists are now tasked with understanding linkages between different network types (trophic and otherwise) and assessing their functional consequences. This symposium will bring together six speakers and a moderator with expertise in food webs and network interactions, specifically in plant and soil systems. As such, the context for the symposium will be networks within plant and soil ecosystems, with linkages above and below ground. The session will be divided between speakers who are focused on theory in network complexity, scaling and trophic control, and speakers who are focused on empirical work in plant and soil networks, as well as applications to global change. Food webs have long been viewed hierarchically, with basal resources as nodes at the bottom and top consumers and predators as nodes at the top. However we will present recent theory considering the notion that a network (trophic or otherwise) can have hierarchy within nodes. We are developing mathematical approaches, using plant and soil food webs as model systems, to test the idea that there is hierarchical scaling within network nodes. Network stability can be determined by interactions between nodes and self-regulating interactions at a smaller scale within a node. Further, we consider the idea that network nodes can be represented by the functional attributes of the node, with interactions or material flux between nodes. In this symposium we will connect the most novel network theory to recently and thoroughly characterized soil networks. By combining novel perspectives on network theory with an exhaustive data set from plant and soil communities, we may gain a deeper understanding of network stability and ecosystem functioning in a very relevant system, plants and soils. The symposium will link the above ground with the below, and conclude with a synthesis of how understanding these linkages will help us understand global change.