Fundamental research in community ecology, and physiological ecology can help us to understand how biological diversity is established, maintained and distributed in natural ecosystems. This basic research is fundamental for generating a mechanistic understanding of biological communities at local-, or global scales.
We explore these basic ecological principles using communities of soil organisms and forest trees.
In terms of biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, fungi are among the most important terrestrial organisms. They are highly diverse, and they govern carbon cycling in most terrestrial ecosystems. With rapid growth rates under controlled laboratory conditions and in natural field conditions, they also provide excellent systems to test basic theory in community ecology (see 1–5) and physiological theory (see 6–9).
Forest trees cover over 1/3 of the land surface, and they are prominent determinants of global carbon cycling and the climate. Given their importance for the wellbeing of humans across the globe, there is a huge amount of data available about forest communities and their growth. We have compiled much of this information from over 1.3 million locations around the world to form the Global Forest Biodiversity Initiative. We use this huge amount of forest community information from across the globe to test basic questions in community ecology (see 10–12) and ecosystem ecology (see 13,14,12).