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Harvard Forest Symposium Abstract 2010

  • Title: Ignoring foundational species is impractical: the case of species distribution surveys
  • Primary Author: Ayelet Shavit (Tel Hai Academic College - Israel)
  • Abstract:

    A foundational species constructs ecological legacies out of persisting materials in its locality, so as to define an entire ecological community or ecosystem (Ellison et al. 2005). Such a species not only adapts to a pre-existing environment but also can modify its selection pressures and cause ecological inheritance (Shavit and Griesemer, 2010)

    If one is satisfied with asking only the classical questions neo-Darwinists and ecologists did, it seems rational and practically justified not to invest in examining an organism-environment interactionist model such as foundational species. We argue against this reasoning, which mistakes neo-Darwinian and standard ecological models for the simplest ones that can drive fieldwork. Instead, we argue that effective fieldwork typically requires noticing species that modify their geographical and ecological environments.

    Historical and philosophical analysis of a long term biodiversity resurvey will show that a) recording phenomena pertinent to foundational species is practically necessary for collecting rigorous data on species locality for biodiversity purposes; and b) that backgrounding the interactionist context through which the data were obtained actually adds complications and time-consuming drawbacks for the next rigorous biodiversity survey. In other words, not taking account of the phenomena of foundational species in the field is scientifically impractical. If one wishes to continue disregarding eco-engineering by foundational species, one will need to explicate flaws in the theoretical models. Appeals to impracticality do not work.

  • Research Category: Historical and Retrospective Studies