Long-distance biological transport processes through the air: Can nature's complexity be unfolded in silico?

Ran Nathan, Nir Sapir, Ana Trakhtenbrot, Gabriel G. Katul, Gil Bohrer, Martin Otte, Roni Avissar, Merel B. Soons, Henry S. Horn, Martin Wikelski, Simon A. Levin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


Understanding and predicting complex biological systems are best accomplished through the synthesis and integration of information across relevant spatial, temporal and thematic scales. We propose that mechanistic transport models, which integrate atmospheric turbulence with information on relevant biological attributes, can effectively incorporate key elements of aerial transport processes at scales ranging from a few centimetres and fractions of seconds, to hundreds of kilometres and decades. This capability of mechanistic models is critically important for modelling the flow of organisms through the atmosphere because diverse aerial transport processes - such as pathogen spread, seed dispersal, spider ballooning and bird migration - are sensitive to the details of small-scale short-term turbulent deviations from the mean airflow. At the same time, all these processes are strongly influenced by the typical larger-scale variation in landscape structure, through its effects on wind flow patterns. We therefore highlight the useful coupling of detailed atmospheric models such as large eddy simulations (LES), which can provide a high-resolution description of turbulent airflow, with regional atmospheric models, which can capture the effects of landscape heterogeneity at various scales. Further progress in computational fluid dynamics (CFD) will enable rigorous exploration of transport processes in heterogeneous landscapes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-137
Number of pages7
JournalDiversity and Distributions
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Atmospheric models
  • Biological transport
  • Computational fluid dynamics (CFD)
  • Large-eddy simulations (LES)
  • Long-distance dispersal
  • Turbulence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


Dive into the research topics of 'Long-distance biological transport processes through the air: Can nature's complexity be unfolded in silico?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this