Monday Colloquium: Laurel Griggs Larsen

"Connect-the-dots for 21st Century science"

Full Title: "Connect-the-Dots for 21st Century Science: What structural, functional, and process connectivity in a “unique” landscape can reveal about global environmental dynamics"

Speaker: Laurel Griggs Larsen, Research Ecologist, U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, VA

Abstract - The importance of connectivity is well established in traditional disciplinary environmental fields, namely hydrology and ecology. Although conventions for defining connectivity in those fields differ, structural connectivity typically refers to the degree of spatial connectedness of landscape features, whereas functional connectivity refers to the degree of permeability of landscapes for certain processes, such as fluxes of water, solutes, or organisms. Process connectivity is emerging as a concept that integrates across disciplines by delineating how various drivers of environmental change interact dynamically in a process network. It is related to structural and functional connectivity in that the latter reflect process connectivity, but at the same time, a single process connectivity network can produce a wide variety of structural and functional connectivity characteristics. Conversely, a particular structural pattern may not uniquely arise from a single process network. Consequently, process-based classification of environments is a paradigm distinct from traditional structurally based classifications but arguably one that represents an improvement for predicting future responses to changing environmental conditions. Identification of dominant process interactions in complex and dynamic environmental systems is one of the outstanding challenges in earth and environmental science. This seminar illustrates one approach for identifying the process connectivity of a particular environment and its relationship to structural and functional connectivity and then using that understanding to make broad inferences about the functioning of environmental systems elsewhere.