Work Package 1: Theory & Synthesis

The objective of our work in WP 1 is to provide a comprehensive conceptual and theoretical framework into which the activities and results of the IP can be integrated.

Description of work

Existing concepts and theories will be reviewed that are relevant for the emergence and functioning of ecosystems. Particular focus will be on resilience, disturbances (including stressors), and transient dynamics. The review will provide a common terminology and a checklist of potential key drivers - including biodiversity - of ecosystem resilience and functioning at different scales. Moreover, general hypotheses, deduced from existing and newly developed theories, will be tested within the IP.

Main research questions

Grafik Methodological

What can existing concepts, models, and theories contribute to understand the response of existing ecosystems to changes in drivers? Which new concepts, models and theories are needed to predict features of emerging novel ecosystems, in particular their ability to robustly provide ecosystem services? How can we combine statistical analysis of large data sets, experiments, and mechanistic modelling into a coherent approach to understand and manage novel ecosystems?

What are the most important resilience mechanisms at different levels of biological organisation? Are chemical buffers a good metaphor for characterizing ecological resilience mechanisms? How do resilience mechanisms at different levels of organisation and scales interact? How can our current understanding of resilience mechanisms be improved? How can we exploit existing understanding of resilience mechanisms to increase resilience? What kind of policies would be needed to implement "resiliencing" mechanisms?


Theories, models and concepts relevant for predicting emerging ecosystems cover a wide range of scales and levels of organisation, i. e. from individuals to the biosphere. The current state of the art is confusing and not coherent. A key method in this WP is thus reviews of theories, models and concepts that aim at providing a coherent framework. They will focus on means to integrate appropriate descriptions of the response of individuals to their environments with appropriate descriptions of interactions between individuals and populations.

Existing predictive models of communities will be used to devise predictions that can be tested in the experimental platforms of the IP; interpretations of experiments of the IP will be explored and extrapolated using models.


Prof. Dr. Volker Grimm
Department of Ecological Modelling
Volker Grimm