Must there be a balance of nature?

Biology and Philosophy 16 (4):481-506 (2001)
Abstract
The balance of nature concept is an old idea that manifests itself in anumber of forms in population and community ecology. This paper focuseson population ecology, where controversy surrounding the balance ofnature takes the form of perennial debates over the significance ofdensity dependence, population regulation, and species interactions suchas competition. One of the most striking features of these debates, overthe course of the previous century in ecology, is the tendency to arguethe case on largely conceptual grounds. This paper explores twoquestions. Why this tendency to settle on conceptual grounds what is soobviously an empirical issue? Are there any good conceptual arguments tobe had in this area?
Keywords a priori argument  abiotic factors  balance of nature  biotic factors  competition  density dependence  equilibrium  non-equilibrium  paradigm  population regulation  random walk  statistical return tendency
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