Pollution issues meet complex food-web modelling and theoretical ecology in the Early View paper “The more polluted the environment, the more important biodiversity is for food web stability”, by Leslie Garay-Narvaez, Matias Arim, José D. Flores and Rodrigo Ramos-Jiliberto.
I was the advisor (together with M. Arim) of Leslie Garay-Narváez, who recently obtained her PhD degree at the University of Chile. This article is the first chapter of her PhD dissertation. When we began to think about possible alternatives for her thesis work, Leslie decided to combine a theoretical approach for studying the dynamics of food webs, with questions related to the effect of human disturbances, particularly pollution. Our desire was to connect very abstract work, based on mathematical modeling and complex networks, with practical needs of social interest. Thus, we decided to go in the direction of revising or perhaps reformulating some key issues of ecological theory, which had been building (explicitly or implicitly) with a pristine world in mind, but considering a polluted world. We envisioned developing some sort of “applied theoretical ecology of polluted complex systems”. In this article we show how the complexity-stability relationship is affected by pollution. Two other papers are in the pipeline.
As a result of Leslie’s work, our institution, the National Center for Environment (CENMA), appreciated the importance of theoretical ecology, and many members of our academic community agreed in that applied questions are affordable from a sound, theoretical perspective. After that, three months ago, Leslie became a happy mother of a baby and obtained a 3-year postdoc fellowship at the University of Chile. Indeed in developing countries like ours, science is a fine form of living, and theoretical ecology even better !