Santa Fe Institute

How many species does a rainforest contain?

June 21, 2010 10:51 a.m.

A paper co-authored by two SFI-affiliated researchers has been recognized by the Ecological Society of America. The research provides a new mathematical model of species birth, death, and dispersal that draws from quantum field theory in physics.

The model agrees well with the rough methods ecologists use to extrapolate (from local-area species counts) the number of species in larger areas such as the Amazon or Great Barrier Reef. More accurate extrapolations of species distribution at all scales, from the local level to the continental scale, is important for improved conservation efforts and for ecological science.

The paper, which appeared in Ecology Letters, has been selected as the 2010 Outstanding Theory Paper by the ESA’s Theoretical Ecology Section. Co-authors are James O’Dwyer, who will join the Institute as an Omidyar Fellow this fall, and SFI External Professor Jessica Green. Both currently are at the University of Oregon in Eugene.

 Structure & Strangeness blog post: http://www.cs.unm.edu/~aaron/blog/archives/2010/05/natures_journal_1.htm

 Ecological Society of America awards: http://www.esa.org/aboutesa/awards.php

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