Reassembly of species interaction networks

Resistance, resilience and functional recovery of a rainforest ecosystem

​DFG-funded Research Unit REASSEMBLY (FOR 5207)

REASSEMBLY aims at understanding network dynamics to uncover rules of network dis- and reassembly in a highly diverse tropical lowland rainforest ecosystem. We study the dynamics of natural forest recovery from agriculture along a chronosequence and the contribution of re-assembled networks to the resilience of ecosystem processes against perturbation. We compare the trajectories of predator–prey, plant–pollinator, and plant–seed disperser networks, as well as decomposition networks between mammals, dung beetles and seeds, and between dead wood, ants, termites, and beetles. Subprojects thus examine networks of all major ecosystem processes mediated by interspecific interactions: predation, pollination, primary and secondary seed dispersal, herbivory, decomposition, and tree seedling recruitment. Networks and ecosystem processes are studied along a large-scale chronosequence of forest recovery (62 plots representing different stages of succession) and in a small-scale perturbation–recruitment experiment. Our Research Unit is funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG).

Our MISSION: Although REASSEMBLY is a basic scientific research unit, our aim is to ensure that the knowledge gained can be applied and contribute to optimizing the restoration of tropical forests. This research project, funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), will not only be conducted within a forest in Ecuador, but on an equal footing with the Ecuadorian scientific community in different institutions and with an Ecuadorian conservation organization (Fundación Jocotoco). Our goal is to strengthen ecological science and the next generation of scientists in both countries, as well as nature conservation efforts that meet the interests of local communities. To achieve these goals, transparent and accessible data and results are essential.

Latest Posts:

  • Rapid species composition assessment by soundscapes
    Sound recorders can successfully capture the remarkable diversity of vocalizing birds, frogs and mammals – much more effectively than other sampling techniques or classical observational methods. Jörg Müller and his team implemented sound recorders in 43 of our plots, then asked skilled experts to identify hundreds of species from selected snapshots and also employed a …
  • Tropical Ecology Conference
    REASSEMBLY actively contributed to the 6th European Conference of Tropical Ecology (GTOE2023) in the beautiful České Budějovice (Budweis) in Czech Republik. Nico Blüthgen presented the framework of the Research Unit and some first results in the session “Traits, interactions and functioning across environmental gradients” hosted by Nina Farwig & Eike Lena Neuschulz who presented results …
  • The recovery of mutualistic interaction: opportunistic species as pioneers
    The recovery of forest ecosystems relies on mutualistic interactions, particularly pollinators and seed-dispersers, or plant defenses by ants. A new modelling study on the succession and assembly of these interactions revealed an important role of non-obligate animal mutualists. Timo Metz performed computer simulations based on trait matching between mutualists, now published in Oikos. His work …
  • Functional trait dynamics of ant communities
    Theory predicts that environmental filtering determines species assemblages – and their reassembly dynamics in a changing habitat such as a recovering rainforest. This prediction can be tested by studying trajectories of functional trait and phylogenetic composition. Phil Hoenle and coauthors examined 13 morphological traits from a total of 284 ant species from 58 genera, and …
  • Variation in a dung beetle: from forest to grassland
    Species differ in their shape, morphology and function. But individuals within a species can be highly variable, too. Such variation likely results from responses to different environmetal conditions. Diego Marín-Armijos, Adolfo Chamba-Carrillo and Karen Pedersen (SP6) studied variation between individuals within a species, an Ecuadorian dung beetle. They compared individuals from an intact Amazonian forest …