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Food Chain Dynamics: The Central Theory of Ecology?

Stephen D. Fretwell
Oikos
Vol. 50, No. 3, Trophic Exploitation, Community Structure and Dynamics of Cyclic and Non-Cyclic Populations. Proceedings of a Symposium Held 25-27 May, 1985, at Hällnäs, Sweden (Nov., 1987), pp. 291-301
Published by: Wiley on behalf of Nordic Society Oikos
DOI: 10.2307/3565489
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3565489
Page Count: 11
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Food Chain Dynamics: The Central Theory of Ecology?
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Abstract

The analysis of ecosystems is experiencing a revolution in both perspective and method. The perspective of basically food or habitat limited populations is giving way to a more balanced perspective including varying levels of predation. The heavily descriptive, detailed methods of the traditional naturalist and the modern system analyst are being complimented with models of Hutchinsonian simplicity, where idealized, easily understandable models are offered as an approximation to reality. The analysis of Hairston, Smith, and Slobodkin is presented as the major turning point in this revolution, where some key assumptions about trophic levels and population regulation are first used as a basis for analysis. Modeling by Rosenzweig put these assumptions on solid ground, and introduced a key variable, primary productivity. Fretwell and Oksanen and his colleagues generalized and extended the kind of logic used in these pioneering studies, to provide a theory that could be central to all of ecology. This theory is reviewed in the present study, is extended to include the field of community ecology, and arguments are offered defending the position that this research program, called Food Chain Dynamics, could be regarded as the central theory of ecology, at least as important as the theory of evolution.

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