Linking human impacts to community processes in terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems

Ian R. McFadden, Agnieszka Sendek, Morgane Brosse, Peter M. Bach, Marco Baity-Jesi, Janine Bolliger, Kurt Bollmann, Eckehard G. Brockerhoff, Giulia Donati, Friederike Gebert, Shyamolina Ghosh, Hsi-Cheng Ho, Imran Khaliq, J. Jelle Lever, Ivana Logar, Helen Moor, Daniel Odermatt, Loiec Pellissier, Luiz Jardim de Queiroz, Christian RixenNele Schuwirth, J. Ryan Shipley, Cornelia W. Twining, Yann Vitasse, Christoph Vorburger, Mark K. L. Wong, Niklaus E. Zimmermann, Ole Seehausen, Martin M. Gossner, Blake Matthews, Catherine H. Graham, Florian Altermatt, Anita Narwani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Human impacts such as habitat loss, climate change and biological invasions are radically altering biodiversity, with greater effects projected into the future. Evidence suggests human impacts may differ substantially between terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems, but the reasons for these differences are poorly understood. We propose an integrative approach to explain these differences by linking impacts to four fundamental processes that structure communities: dispersal, speciation, species-level selection and ecological drift. Our goal is to provide process-based insights into why human impacts, and responses to impacts, may differ across ecosystem types using a mechanistic, eco-evolutionary comparative framework. To enable these insights, we review and synthesise (i) how the four processes influence diversity and dynamics in terrestrial versus freshwater communities, specifically whether the relative importance of each process differs among ecosystems, and (ii) the pathways by which human impacts can produce divergent responses across ecosystems, due to differences in the strength of processes among ecosystems we identify. Finally, we highlight research gaps and next steps, and discuss how this approach can provide new insights for conservation. By focusing on the processes that shape diversity in communities, we aim to mechanistically link human impacts to ongoing and future changes in ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)203-218
Number of pages16
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number2
Early online date22 Dec 2022
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023


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