Rethinking plant community theory

Rethinking plant community theory Plant communities have traditionally been viewed as either a random collection of individuals or as organismal entities. For most ecologists however, neither perspective provides a modern comprehensive view of plant communities, but we have yet to formalize the view that we currently hold. Here, we assert that an explicit re‐consideration of formal community theory must incorporate interactions that have recently been prominent in plant ecology, namely facilitation and indirect effects among competitors. These interactions do not suppport the traditional individualistic perspective. We believe that rejecting strict individualistic theory will allow ecologists to better explain variation occurring at different spatial scales, synthesize more general predictive theories of community dynamics, and develop models for community‐level responses to global change. Here, we introduce the concept of the integrated community (IC) which proposes that natural plant communities range from highly individualistic to highly interdependent depending on synergism among: (i) stochastic processes, (ii) the abiotic tolerances of species, (iii) positive and negative interactions among plants, and (iv) indirect interactions within and between trophic levels. All of these processes are well accepted by plant ecologists, but no single theory has sought to integrate these different processes into our concept of communities. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Oikos Wiley

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Publisher
Wiley
Copyright
Copyright © 2004 Wiley Subscription Services, Inc., A Wiley Company
ISSN
0030-1299
eISSN
1600-0706
DOI
10.1111/j.0030-1299.2004.13250.x
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Plant communities have traditionally been viewed as either a random collection of individuals or as organismal entities. For most ecologists however, neither perspective provides a modern comprehensive view of plant communities, but we have yet to formalize the view that we currently hold. Here, we assert that an explicit re‐consideration of formal community theory must incorporate interactions that have recently been prominent in plant ecology, namely facilitation and indirect effects among competitors. These interactions do not suppport the traditional individualistic perspective. We believe that rejecting strict individualistic theory will allow ecologists to better explain variation occurring at different spatial scales, synthesize more general predictive theories of community dynamics, and develop models for community‐level responses to global change. Here, we introduce the concept of the integrated community (IC) which proposes that natural plant communities range from highly individualistic to highly interdependent depending on synergism among: (i) stochastic processes, (ii) the abiotic tolerances of species, (iii) positive and negative interactions among plants, and (iv) indirect interactions within and between trophic levels. All of these processes are well accepted by plant ecologists, but no single theory has sought to integrate these different processes into our concept of communities.

Journal

OikosWiley

Published: Nov 1, 2004

References

  • Facilitation and competition on gradients in alpine plant communities
    Choler, Choler; Michalet, Michalet; Callaway, Callaway
  • Benefits of plant diversity to ecosystems: immediate, filter and founder effects
    Grime, Grime
  • Relationships between ecological interaction modifications and diffuse coevolution: similarities, differences, and causal links
    Inouye, Inouye; Stinchcombe, Stinchcombe
  • How does environmental variation translate into biological processes?
    Laakso, Laakso; Kaitala, Kaitala; Ranta, Ranta
  • A comment on Hubbell's zero‐sum ecological drift model
    Ricklefs, Ricklefs

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