Diversity of species interactions: a missing key for understanding biodiversity in a changing world

Project description

Strategic research project of the University of Oulu
Focus institute: Kvantum
Faculty: Science

Coevolution among species via species interactions is the major driving force of biodiversity. Yet, the concept of and metrics to estimate species interactions is largely missing from biodiversity studies. The project has two major aims. First, our goal is to create a novel community diversity index, which quantitatively grade communities in terms of the sign, strength and variation of interactions. We will then examine how interaction index varies relative to taxonomic, phylogenetic and functional diversity, stability of the communities and the level of anthropogenic disturbance. Second, we aim to estimate a novel species-specific characteristic, which describes species competitive – facilitative interaction abilities. The association of this new metric with species capability to adapt to global changes is then examined. We aim to use long-term and geographically comprehensive passerine breeding bird and moth data. We will use a state-of-the-art statistical modelling technique, Joint Dynamic Species Distribution Modelling, in extracting species associations from the survey data.

Our expected results will show that the diversity of species interactions is a missing key in understanding diversity because i) it may affect community stability and, in addition to other facets of diversity, ii) it may have independent effects on community dynamics as a function of disturbance and climate change. In all, Diversity of Species Interactions will help us better understand and conserve biodiversity.

Key words: species interactions, biodiversity, climate change, global change, species distribution modeling, macroecology, community ecology, human disturbance, anthropogenic disturbance, boreal ecosystem

Project coordinator

University of Oulu


Dr. James Thorson
National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic Atmosphere Administration (NOAA), Seattle, USA.


Sami Kivelä

Sami Kivelä

Academy Research Fellow
Mira Kajanus

Mira H. Kajanus

PhD student