Linking ecological to evolutionary processes in plankton observatory studies
Domenico D’Alelio, Dept. of Integrative Marine Ecology, Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn, Napoli, Italy
The shape of ecological communities is the cumulative outcome of multifaceted and intersecting evolutionary progressions occurring at species level. Species evolve in consequence of contingent factors plus the relationships they establish with the environment and other co-occurring species. Reconstructing the history behind community assembly by explicitly considering species evolution and interactions is thus an essential step to fully comprehending the most intrinsic characteristics of communities and envisioning their adaptation to environmental changes. Such ‘evolutionary ecology’ approach is particularly suitable for studying plankton, a community of both rapidly evolving and strongly interconnected species. In this context, in situ observatories, i.e., relatively small geographic regions inspected with a Long Term Ecological Research approach, are among the best case studies. By means of LTER observation, reductionist and holistic approaches congregate, providing us with a synergistic perspective in the understanding of nature at different levels of complexity. In this paper, I report on such studies, which take advantage of diverse methodological approaches, unified by modelling and network science. The aim of my overview is documenting, discussing and integrating conceptually the main links between: i) species evolutionary history and biological features; ii) species life history and dynamics; iii) species interactions and community organization; and, ultimately, iv) community assembly and ecosystem functioning.