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Past Outstanding Paper Award Recipients


The Theoretical Ecology Section is pleased to award the 2013 prize for an outstanding theoretical ecology paper to "Nitrogen and Phosphorus Limitation over Long-term Ecosystem Development in Terrestrial Ecosystems" by Duncan Menge, Lars Hedin, and Stephen Pacala, published in PLoS One (2012) vol. 7(8) e42045. This paper formulates a mathematical model for looking at nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) dynamics over multiple timescales. Analyzing their model through techniques of timescale separation, the authors determine whether N or P is more likely to limit net primary productivity (NPP) at short, intermediate, and long timescales. While some of their results provide support for already well-established ideas on NPP limitation, others are counterintuitive, thereby nicely demonstrating the importance of quantitative models for understanding dynamics at the level of the ecosystem. Finally, the work is elegant in that it nicely integrates disparate observations into one cohesive framework.


The Theoretical Ecology Section is pleased to award the 2012 prize for an outstanding paper to "Comparing the qualitatively different effects of rapidly evolving and rapidly induced defences have on predator-prey interactions" by Michael Cortez, published in Ecology Letters (2011) 14:202-209. This paper unifies models of the ecological impacts of plasticity and rapid evolution, and extends these models to acheive general insights about similarities and differences between heritable and non-heritable trait variation. The results were not intuitive; induced defences stabilize or syncrhonize fluctuations (depending on the rate of induction), whereas rapid evolution can lead to a broader range of dynamics. These results were obtained through mathematical innovation, specifically, application of slow-fast theory to make a general analysis tractable.

Congratulations to the authors!


The recipients of the 2011 award are Heather Berkley, Bruce Kendall, Satoshi Mitarai, and David Siegel for their paper entitled "Turbulent dispersal promotes species coexistence", published in Ecology Letters 13:360-371.   This paper uses spatially explicit simulations and analytical approximations to demonstrate that, for species with dispersed larvae and sessile adults, stochastic larval dispersal driven by environmental turbulence can result in decorrelated settlement patterns that enable long-term coexistence of competing species.  The paper demonstrates how the nuanced interplay between species traits and their abiotic environment can drive population-scale processes, and illustrates how multiple sources of variation contribute differently to long-term community dynamics.

Congratulations to the authors!


James O'Dwyer and Jessica Green (2009), for their paper entitled "Field theory for biogeography: A spatially explicit model for predicting patterns of biodiversity," found in Ecology Letters 13: 87-95. Using mathematical methods more commonly found in quantum physics, the authors derive the species-area relationship for a spatially explicit neutral model that includes dispersal and generalizes a previous prediction about beta diversity.

Congratulations to the authors!

Last updated on: May 2, 2014
Masami Fujiwara

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