General Ecological Theory (general + ecological_theory)

Distribution by Scientific Domains

Selected Abstracts

Towards an integration of ecological stoichiometry and the metabolic theory of ecology to better understand nutrient cycling

Andrew P. Allen
Abstract Ecologists have long recognized that species are sustained by the flux, storage and turnover of two biological currencies: energy, which fuels biological metabolism and materials (i.e. chemical elements), which are used to construct biomass. Ecological theories often describe the dynamics of populations, communities and ecosystems in terms of either energy (e.g. population-dynamics theory) or materials (e.g. resource-competition theory). These two classes of theory have been formulated using different assumptions, and yield distinct, but often complementary predictions for the same or similar phenomena. For example, the energy-based equation of von Bertalanffy and the nutrient-based equation of Droop both describe growth. Yet, there is relatively little theoretical understanding of how these two distinct classes of theory, and the currencies they use, are interrelated. Here, we begin to address this issue by integrating models and concepts from two rapidly developing theories, the metabolic theory of ecology and ecological stoichiometry theory. We show how combining these theories, using recently published theory and data along with new theoretical formulations, leads to novel predictions on the flux, storage and turnover of energy and materials that apply to animals, plants and unicells. The theory and results presented here highlight the potential for developing a more general ecological theory that explicitly relates the energetics and stoichiometry of individuals, communities and ecosystems to subcellular structures and processes. We conclude by discussing the basic and applied implications of such a theory, and the prospects and challenges for further development. [source]

Linking ecological theory with stream restoration

Summary 1. Faced with widespread degradation of riverine ecosystems, stream restoration has greatly increased. Such restoration is rarely planned and executed with inputs from ecological theory. In this paper, we seek to identify principles from ecological theory that have been, or could be, used to guide stream restoration. 2. In attempts to re-establish populations, knowledge of the species' life history, habitat template and spatio-temporal scope is critical. In many cases dispersal will be a critical process in maintaining viable populations at the landscape scale, and special attention should be given to the unique geometry of stream systems 3. One way by which organisms survive natural disturbances is by the use of refugia, many forms of which may have been lost with degradation. Restoring refugia may therefore be critical to survival of target populations, particularly in facilitating resilience to ongoing anthropogenic disturbance regimes. 4. Restoring connectivity, especially longitudinal connectivity, has been a major restoration goal. In restoring lateral connectivity there has been an increasing awareness of the riparian zone as a critical transition zone between streams and their catchments. 5. Increased knowledge of food web structure , bottom-up versus top-down control, trophic cascades and subsidies , are yet to be applied to stream restoration efforts. 6. In restoration, species are drawn from the regional species pool. Having overcome dispersal and environmental constraints (filters), species persistence may be governed by local internal dynamics, which are referred to as assembly rules. 7. While restoration projects often define goals and endpoints, the succession pathways and mechanisms (e.g. facilitation) by which these may be achieved are rarely considered. This occurs in spite of a large of body of general theory on which to draw. 8. Stream restoration has neglected ecosystem processes. The concept that increasing biodiversity increases ecosystem functioning is very relevant to stream restoration. Whether biodiversity affects ecosystem processes, such as decomposition, in streams is equivocal. 9. Considering the spatial scale of restoration projects is critical to success. Success is more likely with large-scale projects, but they will often be infeasible in terms of the available resources and conflicts of interest. Small-scale restoration may remedy specific problems. In general, restoration should occur at the appropriate spatial scale such that restoration is not reversed by the prevailing disturbance regime. 10. The effectiveness and predictability of stream ecosystem restoration will improve with an increased understanding of the processes by which ecosystems develop and are maintained. Ideas from general ecological theory can clearly be better incorporated into stream restoration projects. This will provide a twofold benefit in providing an opportunity both to improve restoration outcomes and to test ecological theory. [source]

Searching for phylogenetic pattern in biological invasions

GLOBAL ECOLOGY, Issue 1 2008
erban Proche
Abstract It has been suggested that alien species with close indigenous relatives in the introduced range may have reduced chances of successful establishment and invasion (Darwin's naturalization hypothesis). Studies trying to test this have in fact been addressing four different hypotheses, and the same data can support some while rejecting others. In this paper, we argue that the phylogenetic pattern will change depending on the spatial and phylogenetic scales considered. Expectations and observations from invasion biology and the study of natural communities are that at the spatial scale relevant to competitive interactions, closely related species will be spatially separated, whereas at the regional scale, species in the same genera or families will tend to co-occur more often than by chance. We also argue that patterns in the relatedness of indigenous and naturalized plants are dependent on the continental/island setting, spatial occupancy levels, and on the group of organisms under scrutiny. Understanding how these factors create a phylogenetic pattern in invasions will help us predict which groups are more likely to invade where, and should contribute to general ecological theory. [source]

Coexistence patterns of benthic gastropods on the Uruguayan shelf

OIKOS, Issue 8 2010
Alvar Carranza
Community assembly rules theory attempt to understand the processes that determine the composition of local communities from a regional species pool. Nestedness and negative co-occurrence are two of the most commonly reported meta-community patterns, but almost exclusively from terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems. Here we analyzed the structure of species coexistence in six datasets containing presence/absence data for 120 marine benthic gastropod species in 249 sampling units on the Uruguayan continental shelf and Río de la Plata estuary. The ecological features of this system, such as the idiosyncratic nature of the biogeographic and oceanographic realms, are clearly different from those observed in other systems previously targeted by studies on coexistence structure. Community patterns were evaluated using null models and four structure indices. The existence of patterns in community assembly, and in particular segregated co-occurrence, was verified only when analyzing the number of checkerboard units (CH index). This indicates more mutually exclusive species pairs than expected by chance. Nestedness, on the other hand, was not detected in any dataset. Storage and rescue effects related to overall high immigration and low local extinction rates are plausible mechanisms to account for the general pattern of random species coexistence, while the segregated co-occurrence pattern depicted by the CH index may be related to differential habitat requirements within species pairs. Our study highlights the importance of analyzing metacommunity structures in alternative biological, environmental, and historical contexts in order to advance on the construction of a general ecological theory, relating patterns with the processes dominating in particular ecosystems. [source]