The two coexisting ecological paradigms

Acta Biotheoretica 47 (2) (1999)
We analyse theories and research approaches in ecology and find that they fall into two internally homogeneous groups of linked ideas, each comprising a unique set of premises. The two sets of interpretive statements are thus mutually exclusive; they constitute alternative theoretical developments in ecology and should not be seen as complementary. They can, therefore, be considered two paradigms (Kuhn, 1962). Our interpretation is supported by the minimal overlap, if any, in the premises and research directions of the two approaches. We label the dominant group of ideas the demographic paradigm and the less developed one the autecological paradigm. The internal logic of the demographic paradigm of ecology is strongly developed and consistent. Its premises and logic extend into current models of population genetics, biogeography, palaeontology, evolutionary theory and conservation biology. Nevertheless, many phenomena contradict the premises of the demographic paradigm; these contradictions cannot be accommodated within its theoretical framework without major disruptions in logic ensuing. Such phenomena can, in contrast, be understood in terms of the autecological paradigm. Because the status and strengths of the autecological paradigm are generally unrecognised and because autecology is frequently misrepresented in the literature, we redefine its premises and clarify its structure and aims as an aid to its future development.
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