Species’ Niche and Its Distribution

Species’ Niche and Its Distribution


One of the big problems that people Who study ecology face is that which Environments are going to be suitable To a species and which are not This is something that became very clear to
me When I did my doctoral work looking at Ecology of Joshua Tree in the Mohave Desert
in Southern California Nevada Arizano and Utah And when I did that it I realized it was really Interesting to see what environments were Suitable for Joshua trees and when you see Differences in the appearance of Joshua Tree Whether those different types of Joshua tree Are associated with different sets of environments So that was a very interesting question to
tackle But it turned out that it would almost be Impossible to study that question with an
experiment To do an experiment you would want to plant Joshua trees and watch them grow and See how well they did in a particular environment But the trees live for hundreds of years I did not have that much time to set up my
work And so instead of tackling that problem directly What I started to notice was that when You went out to the desert When you had a handle on which environments Were suitable to Joshua Trees and location You could use that as a way to predict which Environments are suitable to Joshua Trees In another location Even though I can make predictions by eye And even though there are statistical methods That let you make predictions in a similar
way It was still a very hard problem to Tackle mathematically and the reason Is that we know the ecology of any living Thing is really complicated The range of Joshua tree depends on climates It depends on soils It depends on other things that eat the trees It some places it depends on cows that come
along And chew on the flowers It depends on the species of insects that
the tree Needs to pollinate them So there is all this complexity and you almost Never have a chance to measure how Each of those aspects of the environment Interact with the species you are studying Like the Joshua Tree What I have been working on at NIMBios Is instead of thinking about a problem Where you get a handle on every single Thing that matters to Joshua Tree Let’s ask what are the conditions under Which we can make predictions So even if we do not know all the reasons Why an environment are suitable to the trees We can still imagine that there Are a set of environments that are suitable There are a set of environments a Joshua Tree Can get to and a set of environments that
niave Scientist like me can go examine in nature Where the trees are present And where they are not And what I have been able to show Mathematically is that under simple Conditions at least if you just hink about
the sets You can imagine the probability that the Joshua tree will be present in a set of Environments and it turns out that If you set up your study correctly That your estimate of the probability that The trees are present is also going to serve As estimate of the porbability that and environment Is suitable to Joshua Trees This is something that is useful for Joshua
tree My hope is that this sort of link between Mathematics and Biology will be useful For many other species in nature And the reason is that there are a lot Of living things out in nature But it is really expensive and difficult To get all the data that you need For anyone species and so if we Can use data that is easy to collect Such as where are panda bears and Polar bears and trees in the rain forest We can use data on where they are present Which is really easy to gather to get Some idea about which environments are suitable For those organisms right now And use that to make knowledgable Predictions on where they can be Found in the future That means It is going to make our jobs as Ecologists a lot easier than if we had to Go to every single species and learn about Every interaction each specie has For more information and postdoctural fellowships At the National Institute for Mathematical And Biological Synthesis visit our website
at www.nimbios.org

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