A team of researchers, led by the University of Minnesota, addressing long-standing conflicts in ecology and evolutionary science, has provided key directions for the future of community ecology. The team comprehensively synthesized emerging work that applies knowledge of evolutionary relationships among different species phylogenetics to understanding species interactions, ecosystems and biodiversity.
The work, published in the May issue of Ecology Letters, was conducted by a subgroup of researchers participating in an interdisciplinary working group convened by the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The research was supported by funding from NCEAS, the Long-Term Ecological Research Network Office, the National Science Foundation and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.
"For a long time, ecologists ignored the importance of evolutionary processes in understanding how species coexist and how diversity is maintained," said Jeannine Cavender-Bares, a professor at the University of Minnesota, and lead author of the study. "But ecological processes we observe in the present are deeply influenced by evolutionary processes in the past. Thanks to the increasing availability of large DNA and phylogenetic databases, we now have the tools to bring an evolutionary perspective into ecology."
NCEAS hosts hundreds of scientists a year who analyze vast amounts of existing information from numerous prior research studies, in order to look for patterns and make new discoveries. For this study the researchers synthesized more than 180 major studies from both fields, and developed a comprehensive overview of the forces driving community organization, and the role evolution plays in the assembly of these communities.
What's truly exciting is how we are beginning to accumulate evidence that community structure and interactions throug
|Contact: Patty Mattern|
University of Minnesota