Participant 4 - CNRS, France (WP6)

Institute description: The Evolutionary Community Ecology group associates theoretical and experimental approaches to understand the dynamics of species diversity over short (ecological) and long (evolutionary) time scales. The group is part of The Institute of Evolutionary Sciences of Montpellier (ISEM) which is internationally renowned for it research in evolutionary biology, and hosts a diverse range of subjects, including population biology, paleobiology, population genetics, phylogeny, and molecular biology. ISEM has more than 60 research faculty, and almost 100 associated staff, and is extremely interactive for discussions, advice, and collaborations. We also have extraordinary laboratory facilities, both in terms of computing power and molecular biology. The group typically hosts 5-10 postdocs and doctoral candidates.
Role in the project: WP6 leader, participating in WPs 1, 3-5, 7-9
Past experience: One of the strengths of our host university (University Montpellier 2) and other institutions in Montpellier is the exceptional diversity and level of expertise in a variety of areas (total of over 500 researchers), in particular the CNRS Centre for Functional and Evolutionary Ecology (CEFE), the teledetection center (la Maison de la télédétection), the IRD (Institut pour la recherche et le développement), which could be key to achieving certain technical aspects of the project.



Involved personnel

  • Dr Sonia Kéfi. Theoretical ecologist. Specialized in modeling the dynamics of drylands, the interplay between vegetation and the abiotic environment, the spatial vegetation patterns in drylands, the response of drylands to external changes such as climate or human land use. Development of early warning signals of desertification.
  • Dr Nicolas Mouquet. Theoretical and experimental work on the relationship between diversity and ecosystem functioning.
  • Dr Michael Hochberg. Mathematical modeling and experimental work on the evolution of cooperation and virulence in communities and ecosystems.
  • Dr. Florian Schneider.


Dr Sonia Kéfi did her PhD in the Netherlands at the University of Utrecht where she specialized on the modelling of drylands to study their response to external changes. She developed models aiming at investigating the conditions under which drylands might undergo catastrophic shifts to desertification. She used these same models to identify indicators of imminent shifts. Sonia Kéfi then did a post-doc in Germany at University of Göttingen and she is now starting a new position at the CNRS in Montpellier where she is pursuing her research on ecosystems response to external changes and early warning signals of imminent shifts.



  • Kéfi, S., M. Rietkerk, M. Roy, A. Franc, P.C. de Ruiter & M. Pascual. Robust scaling in ecosystems and the meltdown of patch size distributions before extinction. Ecology Letters. In press. 
  • Pueyo, Y., S. Kéfi, R. Diaz-Sierra, C.L. Alados & M. Rietkerk. 2010. The role of reproductive plant traits and biotic interactions in the dynamics of semi-arid plant communities. Theoretical Population Biology. 78:289-297. 
  • Kéfi, S., M. B. Eppinga, P. C. de Ruiter & M. Rietkerk. Bistability and regular spatial patterns in arid ecosystems. 2010. Theoretical Ecology. 3(4):257-269.
  • Kéfi, S., M. van Baalen, M. Rietkerk & M. Loreau. 2008. Evolution of local facilitation in arid ecosystems. The American Naturalist. 172(1): E1-E17.
  • Kéfi, S., M. Rietkerk & G. Katul. 2008. Vegetation pattern shift as a result of rising atmospheric CO2 in arid ecosystems. Theoretical Population Biology. 74: 332-344.
  • Kéfi, S., M. Rietkerk, M. van Baalen & M. Loreau (2007). Local facilitation, bistability and transitions in arid ecosystems. Theoretical Population Biology. 71(3): 267-400.
  • Kéfi, S., M. Rietkerk, C. L. Alados, Y. Pueyo, A. ElAich, V. Papanastasis & P. C. de Ruiter (2007). Spatial vegetation patterns and imminent desertification in Mediterranean arid ecosystems. Nature. 449(7159):213-217.
  • Lavergne, S, & Mouquet, N, Thuiller, W and Ronce, O (2010). Biodiversity and Climate Change: Integrating Evolutionary and Ecological Responses of Species and Communities. The Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics , 41,321-350.
  • Gravel, D, & Mouquet, N, Loreau, M and Guichard, F(2010). Patch Dynamics, Persistence, and Species Coexistence in Metaecosystems. The American Naturalist, 176, 289-302.