A sampling of microalgal diversity. Wikimedia Commons

Biodiversity and ecosystem functioning

Humans are causing biodiversity declines — and sometimes increases due to invasive species — in ecosystems across the globe. Ecologists are beginning to understand general trends in effects of biodiversity loss, such as decreases in ecosystem functions like primary production. However, effects of biodiversity change on ecosystem stability are more difficult to predict. Furthermore, most biodiversity-ecosystem functioning research has focused on single trophic levels (e.g. plants), though feeding interactions have been shown to add further complexity and context dependency.

I am using a combination of laboratory experiments, field experiments, and theory to get a better understanding of how biodiversity change impacts ecosystem stability and function in multitrophic systems (i.e., food webs). As with my other research I mostly use tiny freshwater critters as study systems, since these little guys perform such outsized roles in aquatic ecosystems!

Relevant publications (see Publications page for abstracts and DOI links):

Wolf, A. A., S. K. Ortiz, and C. J. Rakowski (2022). Ecosystems: an overview. Chapter 4 in M. Loreau, F. Isbell, and A. Hector, editors. The ecological and societal consequences of biodiversity loss. ISTE, London, UK.

Rakowski, C. J., C. E. Farrior, S. R. Manning, and M. A. Leibold (2021). Predator complementarity dampens variability of phytoplankton biomass in a diversity-stability trophic cascade. Ecology, 102(12):e03534.

Rakowski, C. J., and B. J. Cardinale (2016). Herbivores control effects of algal species richness on community biomass and stability in a laboratory microcosm experiment. Oikos, 125(11):1627-1635.

Chase Rakowski
PhD Candidate