Skip Links | Access/General | Site Map
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Lancaster University
You are here: Home >

Understanding species coexistence: shifting ideas about nature in the history of ecology

Date: 27 April 2009 Time: 2.00-3.30 p.m.

Marcela Zalamea, Department of Biology and Centre for the Philosophy of Nature and Science Studies, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

Understanding species coexistence: shifting ideas about nature in the history of ecology

Monday 27th April 09, 2.00-3.30 p.m.

Venue: Bowland North Seminar Room 20.

The coexistence of species in nature, namely the phenomenon of sets of species sharing the same time and place has been described and understood differently during the history of ecology. From constituting a confirmation of God's benevolence and perfection-as it was for naturalists such as Linnaeus in the 18th C., species coexistence became the result of a "community of interest between predator and prey" with Stephen Forbes in late 19th C., and later on, a paradox with the development of the so called "competition theory" during mid-20th C. According to competition theory, wherever there are limited and vital resources, and a shared necessity for those resources, there will be competition among species. As a result, only a few species-the best competitors-will remain. The paradox of how is it possible that hundreds of species could coexist in rainforests and coral reefs was temporarily solved during 1980's and 90's by the proposition of a myriad of mechanisms capable of counteract the undermining effect of competition. Towards the end of the 20th C, however, a new theory named "the unified neutral theory of biodiversity and biogeography" turned the paradox into the necessary result of the very structure and dynamics of nature, making the question of how species can coexist completely trivial and even uninteresting.

How could the same phenomenon have been understood in such radically different ways by ecologist at different times? I argue that the conceptual differences do not respond to a progressive model of science in which the gathering of more observations and evidence builds up better descriptions of nature. On the contrary, the different interpretations of the phenomena of coexistence are better explained by the complex interaction between the social and cultural context of science and the historical legacy of scientific theories. I complement this historical-cultural analysis with a text mining analysis of scientific literature from 1913 to the present, in order to survey how the conceptual landscape of contemporary ecology has developed during the 20th C.


Who can attend: Anyone


Further information

Organising departments and research centres: Sociology


Search FASS

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
| Home | Departments | People | Study Here | Research | Business and Enterprise | News and Events |
- FASS Intranet -

Save this page: Delicious Reddit Reddit Facebook Stumble It Stumble It!

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Lancaster University
Lancaster LA1 4YD
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0) 1524 510814
Fax: +44 (0) 1524 510857

E-mail: Email address protected by JavaScript. Please enable JavaScript to contact us.

Copyright & Disclaimer | Privacy and Cookies Notice

Save contact details

Save contact details