Lecture 14- Required Reading, Science Mag Article

Stokstad, Erik, “On the Origin of Ecological Structure,” Science, Vol 326, Oct 2009.


This short paper details various theories of ‘general community rules’ presented by notable ecologists over the past 200 years. Broad principles exist, but fine-scale predictions of how communities will assemble are still sought after.

1802- Alexander von Humboldt, Essay on the Geography of Plants, vegitation varies with altitude, climate, soil and other factors. He explores what factors determine species composition and relative abundance of a community.

1859- Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species, experiment on a patch of unkempt lawn going to seed- “more vigorous plants gradually kill the less vigorous, though fully grown plants.”

1800s- evidence from scientific study showing the composition of communities depend of physical factors (climate, soil chemistry) determines where species can live—called “environmental filters” today.

1930s- Georgii Gause, similar species competition (paramecium feeding on yeast, bacteria, or both).

1950- Theodore Dobzhansky- physical factors vary with latitude

1966- Robert Pain, species diversity controlled by keystone predators, also one organism can facilitate the settlement or success of another (corals provide habitat for other species).

1975- Jared Diamond, seven rules of species distribution, including only some of all possible combinations of species actually exist in nature (black honeyeater bird does not live on island with the black sunbird), controversial, Diamond still researching this hypothesis.

1997- Stephen Hubbell, “unified neutral theory of biodiversity,” abundance and diversity in a community is determined mainly by random dispersal, speciation and extinction. Hubbell does not dispute that species have differing abilities to compete, but that did not factor in what species lived where.

2005- Tadashi Fukami, Wim Van der Putten- supporting evidence of neutral theory.

2009- group article in Ecological Applications, physical stress chiefly determines the distribution of plants in a marsh, competition is main force of community dynamics.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License