Harvard University Professor Aaron Ellison visited Ma Zhan-shan and students of the Laboratory of Computational Biology and Medical Ecology at the Kunming Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences to discuss his academic report on ants and foundation tree species in the forests of northeastern North America.
Ellison introduced the distribution and evolution of the forests in the northeastern United States and outlined the process forest succession and tree species abundance variation. Using hemlock forests to demonstrate the relationship between changes in ant populations and the forest due to climate change, Ellison keenly illustrated the importance of ants to forest ecosystems. Moreover, Ellison showed how ant populations are ideal for studying the effects of climate change in forests because they form a large percentage of the biomass. For example, hemlock forests react and change according to the structure and composition of the ant community, but when forest trees are mainly iron fir, the ant’s Alpha diversity decreased, while Beta diversity increased. Such variations are highly useful in computational biology, providing possibilities for in silico modeling of changes in ecosystems.
Ellison is a senior research fellow in ecology at Harvard and one of the world's foremost experts on ants.