Christopher Catano | Ph.D. Student
My research addresses how changes in dispersal, landscape connectivity, and spatial heterogeneity influence temporal ecological dynamics (community assembly and ecosystem stability). Most theories for the consequences of environmental change suggest declines in the number of species in local communities cause ecosystems to become less productive and more variable over time. However, environmental change is also altering environmental, species, and functional variability (through time and space), involves self-reinforcing feedbacks that cause non-linear or non-stationary dynamics, and can disrupt spatial and interaction networks. Therefore, my research seeks to modify and scale existing theory to provide predictions to help solve realistically complex environmental problems in biodiversity conservation, ecosystem restoration, and global-change biology. To this end I am exploring the following questions:
- To what extent does variation in dispersal regimes alter the effects of local disturbance on biodiversity across scales (α- and β-diversity)?
- How does the functional diversity of species pools and local densities of individuals interact to mediate changes in community assembly processes across environmental gradients?
- How do changes in spatial processes – dispersal, biotic homogenization, and environmental correlations – synchronize local community dynamics, and to what extent does this synchrony destabilize regional ecosystem functions?
- How do long-term changes in disturbance regimes and landscape connectivity decrease the resilience of ecosystems to unexpected events (e.g., species invasions and climate extremes)?
I merge approaches from spatial and functional ecology, time-series analysis, and simulation modeling. Currently I work with temperate forest plants, North American birds, and fish and invertebrates in freshwater wetlands. Check out my website for more information on my research and its contributions to conservation and restoration: http://chcatano.wixsite.com/ecology