Ecosystems are complex entities composed of many interacting parts. One of the most remarkable properties of ecosystems is their intrinsic natural variability. Human activities, however, alter the natural variability of fundamental processes such as biogeochemical cycles, thus causing drastic changes in the functioning of ecosystems. One way of dealing with the complexity of ecosystems is to adopt an integrative approach by using mathematical models. We develop and use models for systems of different levels of organisation (from cells to ecosystems) and for different spatial and temporal scales.
Energy inputs, disturbances and species interactions create complex spatial patterns of the distribution of organisms. The identification of such spatial patterns and their relationships to ecological processes and to changing environmental conditions are also part of our research activities. We are interested in complex interactions among several species in different trophic levels with a focus on strategies leading to a sustainable management of fishery resources. We further engage with fundamental processes and natural phenomena such as trait adaptation, photosynthesis, and calcification in phytoplankton communities, response of corals to ocean acidification, and evolution of cooperation in social-ecological systems.
We use a very diverse set of modelling techniques, including individual-based modelling, cellular automata modelling and biogeochemical modelling. We develop also models of evolutionary trait dynamics and kinetic models of nutrient uptake and cell physiology; we adopt complex adaptive system approaches and ecosystem trophic mass balance analyses.