Towards a unification of unified theories of biodiversity [Things you should read]

Our inaugural Things you should read post is about Brian McGill’s new paper on unifying unified theories of macroecological patterns.

One of the major challenges to understanding ecology is that there are so many different ways to characterize the structure of ecological systems. This means that we spread our intellectual efforts across a large number of different questions making progress in any given area relatively slow. In recent years the field has begun to recognize that many of these patterns are related to one another meaning that understanding ecological structure may be simpler than we thought. This has resulted in the publication of a number of theories that appear to successfully predict multiple ecological patterns. McGill’s contribution is to recognize that all of these theories are successful because they produce three simple things:

  1. Spatial aggregation of individuals within species
  2. A broad scale distribution of abundances with many rare species and few common species
  3. And independent occurrence of individuals of different species

Instead of claiming that this simply makes ecology null and uninteresting McGill recognizes that it just simplifies our challenge and makes a general understanding of many ecological patterns something that might be tractable. The challenge for (macro)ecologists is now to understand the three patterns above along with patterns of species richness and total community abundance. Go read.

3 Comments on “Towards a unification of unified theories of biodiversity [Things you should read]

  1. i tried to follow your link for unifying theories and Perspectives, a firefox extension for verifying web site certificates, said there was a problem. ended up on a weird site with ‘bagpus’.

    UPDATE: Link removed by Ethan White.

  2. It looks like a temporary bug in’s redirect system. They redirect links to track advertising which is part of what supports the blogging system.

    I’ve checked all of our links in two browsers and everything seems to be working properly at this point. Here’s the link again just in case:

    My apologies for the inconvenience. If this happens again let me know. I’m going to go ahead and pull the link from your comment on the off chance that it’s malicious in anyway.

  3. Pingback: these unified theories have arrived with relatively little fanfare… « Jabberwocky Ecology

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