New ideas

Why macroecology needs 'microecology': revisiting an Oikos classic

John Lawton's ' Patterns in ecology ' is a minor Oikos classic (cited 73 times since its publication in 1996). As he recognized, John was writing at a time of transition in ecology. Over the previous 15 or so years ecology (especially community ecology) had become...

Why doesn't community ecology erase the signal of historical biogeography? (UPDATED)

Current species distributions have a strong historical signal. Darwin noted that the extinct fossilized species from a given locality were more closely related to contemporary species from the same locality rather than to, say, contemporary species living far away in a...

'Beauty' is not (necessarily) truth

As scientists we're often attracted to elegant, 'beautiful' ideas. For instance, I, like many biologists, think evolution by natural selection is profoundly elegant and beautiful (in ways I have difficulty fully articulating). We're attracted to elegant ideas in part...

Are there inherently complex ecological phenomena?

In a previous post I suggested that the apparent overwhelming complexity and non-generality of community ecology ('every community is unique') isn't real. Instead, it's a matter of the level of description chosen by the investigator. The forest is always there to see,...

Why expect trade-offs in ecology and evolution? (UPDATED)

Evolutionary biologists and ecologists believe that evolving organisms are subject to trade-offs. You can't have a 'supergenotype' or 'superspecies' that's optimized to do everything , whose fitness (both in absolute terms, and relative to competing genotypes or...

The art of hand waving

' Hand waving ' in science has a bad reputation; referring to an argument as 'hand waving' suggests a lack of rigor. But is hand waving always a bad thing? If by hand waving we simply mean omitting assumptions or steps in an argument for no good reason (or worse, for a...

Contrarian ecology and why we need it

' It is better to know nothing than to know what ain't so' - Josh Billings, American humorist The most serious errors in science don't arise from ignorance of what's true, they arise from believing what's false. The most important false beliefs are the ones that are...

An Oikos editor, and a former editor, are fixing the peer review system

Well, we're fixing one key bit of it: the bit that ensures that there are sufficient willing referees to match the increasing flood of submissions. Scientists have strong incentives to write papers, but relatively weak incentives to review. We have to 'publish or...

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