Title: The Ecological Effect of Phenotypic Plasticity - Analyzing Complex Interaction Networks (COIN) with Agent-based Models
Citation: ECOLOGICAL INFORMATICS vol. 3 no. 1 p. 35-45
Publication Year: 2008
JRC N°: JRC49228
ISSN: 1574-9541
URI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoinf.2007.03.010
DOI: 10.1016/j.ecoinf.2007.03.010
Type: Articles in periodicals and books
Abstract: Analyzing complex dynamics of ecological systems is complicated by two important facts: First, phenotypic plasticity allows individual organisms to adapt their reaction norms in terms of morphology, anatomy, physiology and behavior to changing local environmental conditions and trophic relationships. Secondly, individual reactions and ecological dynamics are often determined by indirect interactions through reaction chains and networks involving feedback processes. We present an agent-based modeling framework which allows to represent and analyze ecological systems that include phenotypic changes in individual performances and indirect interactions within heterogeneous and temporal changing environments. We denote this structure of interacting components as COmplex Interaction Network (COIN). Three examples illustrate the potential of the system to analyze complex ecological processes that incorporate changing phenotypes on the individual level: - A model on fish population dynamics of roach (Rutilus rutilus) leads to a differentiation in fish length resulting in a conspicuous distribution that influences reproduction capability and thus indirectly the fitness. - Modeling the reproduction phase of the passerine bird Erithacus rubecula (European Robin) illustrates variation in the behavior of higher organisms in dependence of environmental factors. Changes in reproduction success and in the proportion of different activities are the results. - The morphological reaction of plants to changes in fundamental environmental parameters is illustrated by the black alder (Alnus glutinosa) model. Specification of physiological processes and the interaction structure on the level of modules allow to represent the reaction to changes in irradiance and temperature accurately. Applying the COIN-approach, individual plasticity emerges as a structural and functional implication in a self-organized manner. The examples illustrate the potential to integrate existing approaches to represent detailed and complex traits for higher order organisms and to combine ecological and evolutionary aspects.
JRC Directorate:Space, Security and Migration

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