I am Full Professor fo Aquatic Ecology at University of Zurich and Eawag. To learn more about my lab and research, visit the homepage of the Altermatt lab and my webpage at University of Zurich. My professorship is supported by and is part of the URPP Global Change and Biodiversity.
My research questions are located at the intersection of ecology and evolution. I would like to understand how species occur in space and time and how they interact. A focus of my work are the effects of species invasions and dispersal on natural communities. Metapopulation and metacommunity theory provide a conceptual framework for my research. I use both an experimental and a comparative approach, and closely collaborate with theoreticians. Depending on the question, I use a variety of study systems, ranging from protozoans (microcosm-experiments), to aquatic invertebrates (field studies with crustaceans and freshwater insects), and Lepidoptera.
My research falls into the following categories:
1) Dispersal, invasive species and diversity in dendritic landscapes
River ecosystems are typical examples of dendritic networks. They are among the most diverse habitats on Earth. However, diversity in many rivers is declining due to invasive species and habitat changes. Mathematical models predict that the dendritic structure affects diversity and invasion success, but only few empirical studies related network geometry to population dynamics. We study dispersal and invasions in dendritic habitats, using experimental protist microcosms and comparative data on invertebrates in Swiss rivers to get a better understanding. We also develop and use environmental DNA (eDNA) tools to monitor native and non-native species in river networks.
2) Dispersal dynamics in metapopulations and metacommunities
Many species occur in fragmented populations. The long-term occurrence in such a network of patches (called metacommunity or metapopulation) depends on dispersal and colonization balancing local extinctions. I studied the functioning of a Daphnia metacommunity in Finland. We found that populations in small, ephemeral pools contribute over-proportionally to dispersal dynamics. Recently, I also started studying a metapopulation of the copepod Tigriopus californicus in rock pools along the Pacific coast.
3) Climate change and species interactions
Climate change is altering population dynamics and phenologies of many organisms. Using long-term datasets, I analyse changes in the phenology and voltinism of butterflies and moths in Central Europe. A significant number of species increased their second generation over the last decades. Currently, we align these patterns with species-traits, such as over-wintering stage or diet breadth of the larvae. We also want to know how the larvae of butterflies and moths are using native versus non-native plants in times of global changes.
Selected publications: (Google Scholar)
- Peller T, Guichard F & Altermatt F. 2023. The significance of partial migration for food-web and ecosystem dynamics. Ecology Letters 26: 3–22.
- Ho H-C, Brodersen J, Gossner MM, Graham CH, Kaeser S, Chacko MR, Seehausen O, Zimmermann NE, Pellissier L & Altermatt F. 2022. Blue and green food webs respond differently to elevation and land use. Nature Communications 13: 6415.
- Luo M, Wang S, Saavedra S, Ebert D & Altermatt F. 2022. Multispecies coexistence in fragmented landscapes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 119: e2201503119.
- Carraro L, Mächler E, Wüthrich R & Altermatt F. 2020. Environmental DNA allows upscaling spatial patterns of biodiversity in freshwater ecosystems. Nature Communications 11: 3585.
- Gounand I, Little CJ, Harvey E & Altermatt F. 2018. Cross-ecosystem carbon flows connecting ecosystems worldwide. Nature Communications 9:4825.
- Gounand I, Harvey E, Little CJ & Altermatt F. 2018. Meta-ecosystems 2.0: rooting the theory into the field. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 33: 36–46.
- Deiner K, Fronhofer EA, Mächler E, Walser J-C & Altermatt F. 2016. Environmental DNA reveals that rivers are conveyer belts of biodiversity information. Nature Communications 7:12544.
- Fronhofer EA, Klecka J, Melian CJ & Altermatt F. 2015. Condition-dependent movement and dispersal in experimental metacommunities. Ecology Letters 18: 954-963.
- Fronhofer EA & Altermatt F. 2015. Eco-evolutionary feedbacks during experimental range expansions. Nature Communications 6:6844.
- Giometto A, Rinaldo A, Carrara F, and Altermatt F. 2014. Emerging predictable features of replicated biological invasion fronts. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111: 297-301.
- Pearse IS and Altermatt F. 2013. Predicting novel trophic interactions in a non-native world. Ecology Letters 16:1088-1094.
- Carrara F*, Altermatt F*, Rodriguez-Iturbe I and A Rinaldo. 2012. Dendritic connectivity controls biodiversity patterns in experimental metacommunities. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109: 5761-5766. * these two authors contributed equally to the work.
- Altermatt F & Ebert D. 2008. Genetic diversity of Daphnia magna populations enhances resistance to parasites. Ecology Letters 11: 918–928.