Posted by Erik Svensson
For the lab-meeting this forthcoming week, I was thinking we should discuss a short - but hopefully provocative - opinion paper about the utility of the Unified Neutral Theory of Biodiversity (UNTB), which became famous but also controversial about 15 years ago when Stephen Hubbell published his Princeton-monographs. Proponents of the neutral theory, including Hubbel himself, sees UNTB as community ecology's counterpart to the neutral theory of molecular evolution in population genetics, and a rigorous point-of-departure and null model. Opponents - including some leading ecologists like Bob Ricklefs - dismiss UNTB on various empirical grounds. Who is right and who is wrong? Or can both sides be partly right? I hope we can have a good discussion about this.
I also hope to show some unpublished and preliminary data on these questions from our ongoing research on damselflies and the prospects for ecological drift in these insects.
Time and place as usual: "Argumentet", October 13 at 10.00.
By:Rosindell, J (Rosindell, James)[ 1,2,3 ] ; Hubbell, SP (Hubbell, Stephen P.)[ 4,5 ] ; He, FL (He, Fangliang)[ 6,7 ] ; Harmon, LJ (Harmon, Luke J.)[ 2,8 ] ; Etienne, RS (Etienne, Rampal S.)[ 9 ]
Ecological neutral theory has elicited strong opinions in recent years. Here, we review these opinions and strip away some unfortunate problems with semantics to reveal three major underlying questions. Only one of these relates to neutral theory and the importance of ecological drift, whereas the others involve the link between pattern and process, the tradeoff between simplicity and complexity in modeling, and the role of stochasticity and drift in ecology. We explain how neutral theory cannot be simultaneously used both as a null hypothesis and as an,approximation. However, we also show how neutral theory always has a valuable use in one of these two roles even though the real world is not neutral.