David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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I. Introduction. Throughout the history of ecology, there have been many different views held about the nature of ecological communities. Some ecologists have argued that they exist mind-independently with discrete boundaries and others have contended that they are merely ephemeral collections of species with minimal interactions. In this essay, first I provide an analysis of the concept of ecological community; or better yet, community concepts. Second, I consider the most serious challenge to the reality of ecological communities; what is called gradient analysis pioneered by Robert Whittaker. I argue that many have misinterpreted the results of gradient analysis and that properly construed the existence of communities, and more specifically, community properties are not threatened. Finally, I sketch how the debate over the reality of communities matters to environmental policy.
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