The visualisation of ecological networks, and their use as a tool for engagement, advocacy and management

Michael J. O. Pocock*, Darren M. Evans, Colin Fontaine, Martin Harvey, Romain Julliard, Orla McLaughlin, Jonathan Silvertown, Alireza Tamaddoni-Nezhad, Piran C. L. White, David A. Bohan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract / Description of output

Ecological systems comprise of individuals and species interacting with each other and their environment, and these interactions combine to form complex networks. The maintenance of biodiversity and many ecosystem functions depend upon these ecological interactions. Humans, their crops and livestock can also be considered as part of these networks of interactions making network analysis valuable for considering the resilience of ecosystem services, i.e. the benefits we gain from nature. Networks are visually appealing and visualisation can attract attention and inform both to communicate overall messages and provide comparisons between networks. There are many different approaches and layouts for visualising networks, but there is little research to help guide best practice. Ultimately though, best practice should be to ensure that messages are supported by evidence and clearly communicated with reference to the competence of the audience. Given the appeal of visualisations and the importance of networks in communicating the interdependence of species (including humans), ecological networks and their visualisation can be used to support excellent public engagement and can be used to enhance the value of citizen science, in which people actively contribute to scientific research. Network approaches could also be valuable for engagement with decision-makers and stakeholders, including their application to complex socio-economic systems, especially where co-production of network visualisations could provide evidence-based overviews of data. In summary, ecological networks and their visualisation are an important tool for scientific inquiry, communication and engagement with even greater potential than has currently been realised.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEcosystem Services:
Subtitle of host publicationFrom Biodiverstiy To Society, PT 2
EditorsG Woodward, DA Bohan
Number of pages45
ISBN (Print)978-0-08-100978-9
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jan 2016

Publication series

NameAdvances in Ecological Research
ISSN (Print)0065-2504

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • species interaction networks
  • food webs
  • citizen science
  • mutualistic networks
  • information visualization
  • coevolutionary networks
  • pollination networks
  • ecosystem services
  • biodiversity loss
  • complex networks

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