A palaeocological perspective into resilience

Understanding how freshwater ecosystems respond to environmental change requires knowing whether recent changes are within the bounds of natural variation or if these systems are, instead, entering new states.

I am Xavier Benito-Granell, an aquatic ecologist and new SESYNC Postdoc Fellow working on questions that revolve around the long-term resilience of diatom communities and their ability to capture regime shifts in lakes. My project, co-developed with my external mentor Albert Ruhi, aims at identifying abrupt transitions in palaeoenvironmental records of high-elevation Andean lakes.

We are applying time-series methods on a unique combination of diatom community data, biophysical data (pollen and sediment geochemistry), and human data (archaeological records). This historical perspective combines data at decadal to millennial scales, and allows asking whether early-warning signals precede regime shifts–something that would be useful to try identify lakes that may be on the verge of a critical transition. We hope this work will advance our understanding of the long-term dynamics and trajectories of high-altitude lakes, and of their responses to ongoing anthropogenic and environmental change.

Paramo landscape around Lake Patoquinuas, Cajas National Park (Ecuador)

September 2018 updates

  • We are excited to announce that we are starting two undergraduate research projects! Chen Li, URAP scholar, is assisting us with the design of the artificial stream system. Gabby Doerschlag, SPUR scholar, is going to study benthic invertebrates in Strawberry Creek.
  • We got a SESYNC working group funded! This is a 2-year, collaborative project with several institutions across the U.S. to work on sustainable water management through dam operations, and advance quantitative (time-series) methods that can help us get there. This project will start in January 2019. More on this soon!
  • We hosted Rachel Stubbington, who visited us from Nottingham Trent University (UK) to explore collaborations on intermittent river ecology.
  • Also, check out the book chapter on hydrological alteration and biological invasions, part of the book on Multiple Stressors in River Ecosystems (edited by Sabater, Elosegi & Ludwig).
  • And last but not least, we received the final pieces of lab equipment we were waiting for: stereomicroscopes, an oven, and a microbalance. Ready for aquatic invertebrate business!