Ideally, experimental studies in ecology examine the response of genetically similar organisms to different environments or of genetically different organisms to similar nents. Since environmental differences in nature may rapidly lead to subtle genetic differences among populations (e.g. 72, 1 77, 1 78), it is sometimes perilous to comÂ pare the response of a species among differing natural environments by observation alone. Likewise, simply observing or measuring the response of clearly different organisms in a single natural environment may fail to reveal the extent of their interaction. This means that experimental intervention or manipulation is usually required to establish controls for any rigorous test of hypotheses conccrning biotic interactions or the differential response of organisms to environments. The concept of the ecological niche is a useful device for describing concisely the patterns and limits of response of organisms and for abstracting certain generalities from the vast array of particulars comprising the literature of ecology. As Elton put it fifty years ago: "The importance of studying niches is partly that it enables us to see how very different . . . communities may resemble each other in the essentials of organization" (56). In its broadest sense the title of
Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics – Annual Reviews
Published: Nov 1, 1975
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