The Evolutionary Strategies that Shape Ecosystems

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John Wiley & Sons, Mar 26, 2012 - Science - 264 pages
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In 1837 a young Charles Darwin took his notebook, wrote “I think”, and then sketched a rudimentary, stick-like tree. Each branch of Darwin’s tree of life told a story of survival and adaptation – adaptation of animals and plants not just to the environment but also to life with other living things. However, more than 150 years since Darwin published his singular idea of natural selection, the science of ecology has yet to account for how contrasting evolutionary outcomes affect the ability of organisms to coexist in communities and to regulate ecosystem functioning.

In this book Philip Grime and Simon Pierce explain how evidence from across the world is revealing that, beneath the wealth of apparently limitless and bewildering variation in detailed structure and functioning, the essential biology of all organisms is subject to the same set of basic interacting constraints on life-history and physiology. The inescapable resulting predicament during the evolution of every species is that, according to habitat, each must adopt a predictable compromise with regard to how they use the resources at their disposal in order to survive. The compromise involves the investment of resources in either the effort to acquire more resources, the tolerance of factors that reduce metabolic performance, or reproduction. This three-way trade-off is the irreducible core of the universal adaptive strategy theory which Grime and Pierce use to investigate how two environmental filters selecting, respectively, for convergence and divergence in organism function determine the identity of organisms in communities, and ultimately how different evolutionary strategies affect the functioning of ecosystems. This book refl ects an historic phase in which evolutionary processes are finally moving centre stage in the effort to unify ecological theory, and animal, plant and microbial ecology have begun to find a common theoretical framework.

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Chapter Summaries
Primary Adaptive Strategies in Plants
Primary Adaptive Strategies in Organisms Other
From Adaptive Strategies to Communities
From Strategies to Ecosystems
The Path from Evolution to Ecology
Organism Index
Subject Index

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About the author (2012)

Philip Grime is a Professor Emeritus at the University of Sheffield where he currently maintains long-term experiments at the Buxton Climate Change Impacts Laboratory in North Derbyshire. As a pioneer of experimental approaches to communities and ecosystems Professor Grime is an elected member of the Dutch and British Royal Societies and was the inaugural recipient in 2011 of the Alexander von Humboldt Medal awarded by the International Association for Vegetation Science.

Simon Pierce is a researcher and lecturer at the University of Milan, Italy, and at the time of writing taught plant physiological ecology at the University of Insubria, Varese, Italy. His research encompasses plant community ecology and ecophysiology, and the reproductive biology, cultivation and conservation of terrestrial orchids. During his career he has lived and worked in the Republic of Panama, as an Andrew W. Mellon research fellow at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, for the University of Cambridge, UK. He holds a doctorate from the University of Durham, UK, and a degree from the University of Wales, Bangor.

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