From ecological indicators to ecological functioning: Integrative approaches to seize on ecological, climatic and socio-economic databases

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Anthropogenic activity has already altered patterns of biodiversity and the associated ecological processes. Almost simultaneously, we have gained an unprecedented ability to access, record, store, and analyze ecological data across different levels of organization (from genomes to biomes) at various spatio-temporal scales. The toolbox of ecologists would greatly benefit from incorporating statistical methods that integrate and seize on these available databases. These tools have been typically underused in ecological and management studies, among other reasons, because they are highly data demanding. However, our availability to access, register, and store environmental, biotic and socio-economic records has largely improved over the latest decades. Here I discuss the utility of some underused statistical tools to unfold ecosystem responses to environmental change, such as statistics of extremes, multilayer networks, or tools to advert early warning signals. In doing so, I provide a list of R packages suitable to perform these analyses along with a comprehensive list of sites to access to environmental, biotic, and socio-economic records useful to a wide range of ecologists and practitioners. The application of these underused statistical tools, among others, and the full and integrated exploitation of large data sets is a timing task for ecologists and managers if we are to understand ecosystems’ responses to environmental change and to provide evidence-based guidelines to preserve biodiversity while securing the provision of ecosystem services that sustain human welfare.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105612
JournalEcological Indicators
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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