Selection on stability across ecological scales


Much of the focus in evolutionary biology has been on the adaptive differentiation among organisms. It is equally important to understand the processes that result in similarities of structure among systems. Here, we discuss examples of similarities occurring at different ecological scales, from predator–prey relations (attack rates and handling times) through communities (food-web structures) to ecosystem properties. Selection among systemic configurations or patterns that differ in their intrinsic stability should lead generally to increased representation of relatively stable structures. Such nonadaptive, but selective processes that shape ecological communities offer an enticing mechanism for generating widely observed similarities, and have sparked new interest in stability properties. This nonadaptive systemic selection operates not in opposition to, but in parallel with, adaptive evolution.

Trends in Ecology & Evolution
Mark Novak
Mark Novak
Associate Professor