Biodiversity is an enigmatic yet important factor for the accuracy of ecosystem modelling. The inclusion of living organisms is necessary for models that predict carbon usage and circulation, while capturing complex networks of feeding interactions across trophic levels is important for describing the functioning of ecosystems and their potential response to climate change. Links between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning are examined in biodiversity ecosystem functioning (BEF) experiments, yet upscaling their predictions to natural communities is not straightforward. Conducting BEF experiments within the context of planktonic relationships is particularly challenging because of the highly variable environmental conditions. Strong gradients of physical, biogeochemical and biological conditions and the constant motion of the sea may affect community structure and functioning at all times. Furthermore, although these variables are known, many of them cannot be accounted for in experiments that are restricted to small scales. This means that our observational capabilities of how such processes affect biodiversity and, in turn, ecosystem functioning on small and large scales remains limited.
In benthic systems, findings from small-scale BEF experiments have been scaled up using ecosystem models and for plankton a multitude of models capturing different components of diversity have in fact been developed in recent years. However, scientists still lack a comprehensive assessment on how the different modelling approaches compare in capturing different components of biodiversity. Trait-based approaches, for example, are used successfully to capture changes in trait distributions with environmental conditions, but their implementation in 3D global ocean models may incur a high computational cost. Commonly used plankton functional type (PFT) models might suffer from a lack of phenotypic diversity/plasticity within functional groups, and aggregating diversity within few groups requires arbitrary choices of parameter values. Some innovative approaches explicitly represent phenotypic diversity by stochastically drawing parameters for a large number of phenotypes within each functional group, others use moment closure techniques to reduce the number of state variables but with the difficulty of implementation into circulation models.
Hence, advancing the understanding of ecosystem functioning by capturing the different aspects of plankton diversity in models is a particularly challenging task that requires intense interaction between specialists for each approach. The EuroMarine-funded foresight workshop MODIV aims to rise to this challenge by fostering a collaborative working session for a diverse group of experts specialising in the different relevant branches of plankton modelling and reflecting different diversity concepts.
MODIV wants to deliver a young perspective on modelling plankton biodiversity. It aims to
- Bring together a productive small group of establishing scientists in a constructive environment.
- Increase exchange among the young European modelling community working on plankton biodiversity.
- Further establish marine biodiversity as a crucial topic to be tackled by the European research community, particularly within ecological modelling, marine ecology, and ocean biogeochemistry.
The organisers expect that MODIV will serve as a forum for the exchange of knowledge and the development of new research networks and collaborations. Addtionally, they expect the workshop will lead to:
- A review/perspectives manuscript targeted for a peer-reviewed journal (e.g. Trends in Ecology and Evolution, Ecology Letters, Journal of Plankton Research, etc.).
- A proposal for a joint session at the EGU General Assembly 2021, to be submitted in September 2020.
The goal of MODIV is to create an impact beyond the workshop itself. In particular, it will:
- Initiate and encourage regular exchanges first between participants, with a vision to extend to the wider science community via future videoconference series, meetings and collaborations.
- Highlight the importance and motivate the inclusion of biodiversity effects in models across different scales, particularly in applied large-scale ocean models, which is necessary e.g. for assessing the role of ecology for biogeochemistry in a future climate.
- Provide capacity building for early career scientists in terms of the scientific topic as well as conducting such a synthesis effort as this workshop.