Fenner Seminar - Addressing context dependence in ecology: lessons from biological invasions

Context dependence is widely and increasingly invoked to explain disparate results in ecology. It arises when the magnitude or sign of an ecological relationship varies due to the conditions under which it is observed. Such variation, especially when unexplained, can lead to spurious or seemingly contradictory conclusions, which can limit understanding and our ability to transfer findings across studies, space and time.

In this talk, Dr Jane Cartfordf will discuss a recently developed typology for addressing context dependence based around two types and four sources of context dependence: mechanistic context dependence arises from interaction effects; and apparent context dependence can arise from the presence of confounding factors, problems of statistical inference and methodological differences among studies, including scales.

Jane will illustrate the typology, and the issue of context dependence, using empirical examples of plant and animal invasions from different parts of the world. Addressing context dependence is a critical challenge in invasion ecology, essential for increased understanding and prediction.


About the speaker

Dr Jane Catford is a plant community ecologist with interests in biological invasions, environmental change and biodiversity. Jane is particularly interested in the causes, consequences and processes of vegetation change, and she typically focus on species invasions to tackle such questions.

Jane is a Reader in Ecology in the Department of Geography at King’s College London and Senior Editor at Journal of Ecology. Before joining KCL in 2018, she held an academic position at the University of Southampton. From 2012-2016, Jane held a research fellowship with the Australian Research Council, and worked at the University of Melbourne, University of Minnesota and Australian National University. Lab website: https://ecologicalchange.org