Species dispersal and the spatial insurance hypothesis as coupled ecological-economic system

School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, USA

David Shanafelt

David Shanafelt

International trade has promoted the exchange of goods and services, but has also facilitated the spread of pathogens and invasive species. Although most invasive species cause little or no harm, the addition of new competing species to an ecosystem impacts its biodiversity, which has been linked to its functioning and the resultant flow of ecosystem services. One explanation for the effect of invasive species on ecosystem functioning is offered by in the spatial insurance hypothesis, which suggests that the stability of primary production in a meta-community increases with the biodiversity of each of its spatially distributed constituent communities. Despite mixed empirical evidence, Loreau et al. (2003), in an influential theoretical analysis, provided an illustration and corroboration of this hypothesis. Their model and analysis, however, did not account for the effects of human behavior on species dispersal and competition. In this project, we will investigate the effects of incorporating this human component into the model by Loreau et al. (2003), resulting in a coupled ecological-economic system. Specifically, we will consider dispersal as a function of the trade of goods and services between spatially distributed ecological communities. The species coexisting within those communities will depend on human decisions to promote or suppress particular species: we assume that humans determine the amount of trade and species harvest within each community according to an objective of maximizing utility or well-being. This work will shed light on the consequences of tight ecological-economic couplings and stress the importance of cooperation between trading partners for environmental protection and economic development.

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Last edited: 24 March 2016

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