Animals and Ecosystem Functioning in Streams and Riparian Areas

Animals make important contributions to shaping the ecosystems where they live, by consuming resources, excreting nutrients, and serving as food for other animals. Classically, many people think of organisms as acting in response to environmental conditions. But organisms actually create some of those conditions through their activity, forming a dynamic feedback between living and nonliving parts of ecosystems.

Here, I’ll discuss work that my research group has conducted in stream and riparian ecosystems. In streams, aquatic macroinvertebrates process terrestrial leaf litter, and incorporate it into aquatic food webs. We have found that the rate of this ecosystem process varies nonlinearly with macroinvertebrate population densities, which is an important consideration when predicting hotspots and cold spots of resource cycling. Around streams, terrestrial wildlife use riparian habitats for food, water, shelter, and as movement corridors. I’ll present new results about what determines how wildlife use these areas, and what this implies for ecosystem processes in these ecotone habitats.

About the Speaker

Speaker Chelsea Little standing in forest.
Dr. Chelsea Little
Assistant Professor, School of Environmental Science, Simon Fraser University

I am a community and landscape ecologist interested in the distribution of biodiversity on the landscape, and in what organisms are doing to contribute to ecosystem processes like production and decomposition. My work has taken me to alpine and Arctic tundra plant communities, lowland streams on two continents, and more recently to riparian areas in British Columbia to observe wildlife habitat use. I am also keenly interested in using data synthesis and meta-analysis to assess the generality of ecological dynamics around the globe. 

Environmental Speaker Series

The Environmental Speaker Series is hosted by the College of the Environment at Western Washington University.

The Series is free and open to the public. Talks are held each Thursday at 4:30 pm in Academic Instructional Center West room 204 - AW-204. Talks will also be streamed via zoom. Register with the Alumni Association for the zoom link. Paid parking is available in lot C.

Learn more about the Environmental Speaker Series
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