ICCS2004 Application Submission/Review

Abstract for
"Quantification of Biocomplexity"

The problem of quantifying diversity has not been resolved to the satisfaction of most ecologists and thus merits investigation. I have been working to refine our definition of diversity to include components such as spatial structure and taxonomic diversity. We refer to the proposed set of measures as ‘biocomplexity’ measures, and have found that they can be more useful than previous measures in assessing ecosystem health, when applied to recovering pollution-impacted forest communities. I discuss how to find surrogates of biocomplexity using not only taxonomic and compositional information of ecological communities, but relationships between them. I will also examine the ability of power-law scaling behaviour (a hallmark of self-organization via the construction of fractal-like structures), and deviations from theoretical values of these power-laws, to detect ecological perturbation. Preliminary results suggest that disturbance destroys self-organizing network-like structures of ecosystems and that restoration efforts must attempt to rebuild these structures. If this is true, we will show, for the first time, that disturbance can be detected by deviations from power-law behaviour, something that has been suggested, but never shown before. Future work in this area will include determination of the universality class for disturbed ecosystems, which will aid in the assessment of ecosystem resilience.