19 February 2010
Using ordinary differential equation models to represent fire and temperature dynamics from palaeoecological data
I have reconstructed multiple palaeoecological records from sites across the British Isles; this work has resulted in detailed time series that demonstrate changes in vegetation, herbivore density, nitrogen cycling, fire levels and air temperature across an 8,000 year time span covering the end of the last glacial period. The aim of my research is to use statistics to infer the relationships between vegetation changes and changes in the abiotic and biotic environment in which they occurred. This aim is achieved by using a model-fitting and model-selection method whereby sets of ordinary differential equations (ODE) are ‘fitted’ to the time series data via maximum likelihood estimation in order to find the model(s) that provide the closest match to the data. Many of the differential equation models that I have used in this study are well established in the theoretical ecology literature (i.e. plant – resource dynamics and plant – herbivore dynamics); however, there are no existing ODE models of fire or temperature dynamics that were appropriate for my data. For this workshop, I will present the palaeoecological data that I collected along with the models that I have chosen to work with (including my first attempt at models for fire and temperature dynamics) and I hope to get your feedback on these models and suggestions for other useful modelling methods that could be used to represent these dynamics.
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