Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Chaos In Food Webs: The Balance Of Nature Concept Takes A Beating | Scientific Blogging:
"The traditional idea of the balance of nature gets quite a beating by a study that appears in the current issue of Nature. Using a long-term laboratory experiment, the authors conclude that, even under constant conditions, all species in a food web continued to fluctuate in a chaotic fashion. Chaos makes long-term prediction of species abundances impossible. Theoretical ecologists already argued in the 1970s that populations of plants and animals might fluctuate in an unpredictable manner, even without external influences. These predictions, derived from chaos theory, attracted a lot of debate. However, only few scientists believed that species in real ecosystems would truly fluctuate in a chaotic fashion. The common perception was that species fluctuations result from changes in external conditions, driven by climate change or other disturbances of the balance of nature. This classic perspective has been radically changed by new findings of graduate student Elisa Beninc�and Professor Jef Huisman of the Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics of the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands, in collaboration with colleagues from Wageningen University (The Netherlands), the University of Rostock (Germany), and Cornell University (USA)."

Since the study was done on very small organisms, perhaps as the organism becomes larger and more complex the effect of chaos becomes less powerful because the organisms are more adaptable? And isn't it essential for evolutionary theory that chaos be not just possible but likely?

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