I want your skulls – for Science.

And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every fowl of the air and brought them unto Adam to see what he would name them, and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. -Genesis 2:19   By naming something, we imply that we know something about its true nature, and we claim ownership of it. For many, this is … Continue reading

Ants aiding ants on Acacia

A regular theme on this blog (here, here, here, etc…) is how fascinated all of our contributors are by the factors that promote and maintain biodiversity. Personally, I am really into some of these such as positive interactions between species, such as mutualisms (like the legume-rhizobium mutualism I study) and facilitative effects between species. In some systems, negative interactions between species can result in indirect facilitation of other species by … Continue reading

A trip along the diversity effects highway: a new and exciting fork in the road

The dynamic dune ecosystem along Lake Michigan was where I first came to appreciate nature as a young child (granted, I was in the water most of the time). Blissfully unaware of the pioneering work of Cowles (1899), it was my time wandering forward and backward through successional time as I matured into a young man that put me on the road to studying ecology. So, when I came across … Continue reading

No return of diversity?

In the past few decades, there has been an increasing concern and therefore research into the eutrophication of natural ecosystems caused by high levels of nitrogen addition. Some studies, such as Foster and Gross 1998 and Clark and Tilman 2008 (among others), have shown that nitrogen fertilization leads to a decrease in the diversity of communities. However, the long-term consequences of these actions are not well understood. How quickly do the nitrogen … Continue reading

An Ecological Approach to Invasion Resistance – Insights from the World of Fashion

Old fashions are often recycled by new generations of young people attempting to stand out and be unique (just like everyone else!). Bell bottomed jeans, the paragon of 1970s fashion, saw a (thankfully brief) resurgence in the late 1980s. More recently, the leg warmers and popped collars of the 1980s were suddenly cool again. Strangely enough, ideas in ecology often reappear on a similar 15-20 year cycle. In the case … Continue reading

Adaptive Radiation Constrained By Niche Availability

Understanding why there are so many species is an essential question in biology that continues to generate considerable curiosity and drive evolutionary research. Moreover, people seek to understand how species that are closely related can reside in very different niches and co-occur in areas. Darwin observed such an adaptive radiation with finches in the Galapagos, where the species of birds differ in the size and shape of their beaks, allowing … Continue reading

Trade-offs are important for promoting diversity, even for microbes

Background In 2005, Science Magazine published a special issue exploring 125 big unanswered questions in science in celebration of their 125th anniversary. One of the questions that I keep thinking about (as many biologists do, I’m sure), is this question of, “what determines species diversity?“. I know: This is an overwhelmingly big and important question in biology. So I decided to focus on just one hypothesis addressing this question. That … Continue reading

Guilty as charged? Invasive species may not be that bad for biodiversity

Invasive species are accused of being one of the major causes of modern species extinctions and biodiversity loss, on par with climate change and habitat destruction. A few charismatic examples implicate invasive predators and disease in native species extinctions. For example, the brown tree snake (Boiga irregularis), introduced to Guam in 1952, is implicated in the extinction of 9 of the 11 forest bird species, 5 of which were endemic … Continue reading

Consider the Ocean

A recent paper in Ecological Applications put a classic theory to the test, with a twist. The theory of island biogeography was one of the first conceptual frameworks to provide guidance for the conservation of biodiversity on a landscape scale. It’s pretty intuitive stuff. Changes in species diversity on ecological time scales (i.e., over decades) in any habitat are the result of colonizing species minus species extinctions. MacArthur and Wilson … Continue reading