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Studying ecosystem stability to global change across spatial and trophic scales

Abstract : As global change threatens ecosystems worldwide with biodiversity loss, studying ecosystem stability has never been so important. Most ecosystem stability studies have heretofore focused on single ecosystems and disturbances, usually following the behaviour of particular ecosystem properties, such as productivity and diversity indices. However, ecosystems are subjected to multiple disturbances simultaneously and at large spatial scales different ecosystems co-occur, each responding specifically to any given disturbance. Hence, the study of ecosystem stability needs to move towards approaches that can be informative at broad scales that are relevant for ecosystem management. This thesis is a step forward in this direction. Here, I used several approaches to assess how multiple global change drivers, such as climate change, extreme whether events, and land-use changes, affect ecosystem stability at landscape and larger spatial scales, and from single to multi-trophic level perspectives.I begin by highlighting the importance of considering the interactions between gradual and extreme climate changes, in conjunction with land-use changes, for the management of highly diverse landscapes, such as the European Alps. Using a spatially explicit dynamic vegetation model, I show that increasing drought frequency and intensity will likely change the trends of treeline movement expected under future gradual climate warming scenarios. I then investigated whether drought and gradual climate warming caused plant communities to shift in different ways, using n-dimensional hypervolumes to describe community states in multidimensional space. Drought effects on forest and grassland structure did not greatly change the long-term trajectories caused by gradual climate warming alone, but showed that forest communities became more unstable than grasslands in the future. However, focusing on vegetation dynamics remains limited to a single trophic level. Because trophic networks represent energy flows in an ecosystem, studying their stability to disturbances should provide more accurate information on overall ecosystem stability. Hence, I also investigated trophic network stability in European protected areas to future scenarios of land-use and climate changes. My results show that these trophic networks may be highly sensitive to climate changes, even if no land-use changes occur. Importantly, I show that considering different dispersal limitations will greatly impact network robustness, and stress the importance of accounting for these processes in ecosystem management.In my thesis, I demonstrate that ecosystem stability concepts can and should be applied at scales that are relevant for management, while embracing the multidimensional nature of ecosystems.
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Ceres Barros. Studying ecosystem stability to global change across spatial and trophic scales. Earth Sciences. Université Grenoble Alpes, 2017. English. ⟨NNT : 2017GREAV013⟩. ⟨tel-01685584⟩

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