Algal competition and community dynamics can be nicely predicted in the lab using measurements of species resource requirements and competitive abilities. In fact, Resource Ratio theory has been largely successful in predicting competitive outcomes in simplified and homogenous communities. This lends promise to the idea that this theory could be used to forecast ecological dynamics in nature. However, the extent and limitations of the predictive abilities of this theory have not been substantially tested in complex natural envrionments. The presence of environmental abiotic variation in temperature, pH and osmolarity may limit the usefulness of the theory.
In a series of lab and field based experiments, we are collecting an extensive database of algal ecological and physiological traits, and testing whether these traits are capable of correctly predicting community dynamics over time in response to environmental changes. We are also determining the extent to which these traits are sensitive to changes in abiotic variation in temperature.