Ecosystems Behave Like Human Bodies

Ecosystems Behave like Human Bodies

Scientists at the Universidad Carlos III in Madrid (UC3M) have developed a mathematical model that recreates the behavior of an ecosystem. The model allows the scientists to examine ecosystem formation and evolution over a long period of time. They discovered that an ecosystem is formed by an invasion of new species, but that after a period of growth it no longer permits additional structures, only exchanges. “In short: the species change, but the structure does not,” explains Professor José A. Cuesta of the Mathematics Department at UC3M. From this new perspective, multiccellular beings could be seen as ecosystems: different cells cooperate, compete for resources, and are constantly changed and substituted, yet the individual remains the same. The researchers hope their study will force people to see ecosystems as a self-contained entity, rather than a collection of species. They use the “large predator” effect as an example. When a large predictor is wiped out, their prey’s population can grow to the point that it depletes its own resources, leading to its subsequent extinction as well. “We are obsessed with the preservation of species,” the researchers point out, “But it is much more important to preserve ecosystems.”