New book urges ecologists to think 'outside the helmet'

uito larvae, dry during drought years, drastically reducing mosquito predators-- from fish to water beetles--and competitor species such as snails, tadpoles, and zooplankton.

Ecology presumes that for species to live in the same environment, species have to be different. But the traditional niche theory cannot explain the diversity of tropical rain forests or coral reefs, where hundreds of species appear to be essentially the same.

"Beyond variability and abiotic effects, scale has to be incorporated in this new synthetic niche theory that we propose" Chase said. "We need to look at the world from a macroscope instead of a microscope, from an airplane instead of looking up in a forest. Part of the problem that ecologists have had is we're looking at systems that occur on timescales larger than our own. It's hard to understand the factors that influence forest diversity when the changes are occurring over hundreds to thousands of years

The next millennium will see continued changes in global climate, species extinctions, and invasive species along with the burgeoning human population encroaching on almost all natural areas. "We think ecology is poised to be one of the most important of the biological disciplines", Chase said. "What we hope the book will do is create a synthetic framework that can traverse across scales of ecology and provide a solid foundation for future studies".


Contact: Tony Fitzpatrick
Washington University in St. Louis

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