About this topic
Summary Philosophical study of Ecology and Conservation Biology is a growing part of Philosophy of Science. Ecology and Conservation Biology are closely-related branches of biology. Ecology studies interactions between groups of organisms and among those groups and their environments. The questions of Conservation Biology arise from efforts to preserve groups of organisms or other biological units like ecosystems. Many of the questions in this area arise from more general questions in philosophy of science like the role of laws, the structure of explanations, the challenges of representation. The specific kinds of complexity arising from the interactions of so many and such different living organisms as are typical of ecological research make Ecology and Conservation Biology fruitful terrain for examining how scientists can represent complexity in a manageable way. Moreover, these biological disciplines are also appealed to in decision making, at scales from the management of a wetland to the development of international climate-change agreements. Some philosophers of science address biologists' capacities to answer the questions arising in these contexts, given the achievements and limitations of these complex sciences.
Key works An early monograph connecting ecology and conservation was Shrader-Frechette 1993. Cooper 2007 was the first monograph in philosophy of science focused on ecology.
Introductions Justus 2013 is an introduction to problems and debates in Philosophy of Ecology written for Biology instructors and other educators, but more generally useful for non-specialists. Colyvan et al 2009 surveys major issues in Philosophy of Ecology. Justus 2002 discusses prominent problems in Conservation Biology, and Sarkar 2004 is an introductory encyclopedia article on the same.
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  1. At the intersection of medical geography and disease ecology: Mirko Grmek, Jacques May and the concept of pathocenosis.Jon Arrizabalaga - 2018 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 40 (4):71.
    Environmental historians are not sufficiently aware of the extent to which mid twentieth-century thinkers turned to medical geography—originally a nineteenth-century area of study—in order to think through ideas of ecology, environment, and historical reasoning. This article outlines how the French–Croatian Mirko D. Grmek, a major thinker of his generation in the history of medicine, used those ideas in his studies of historical epidemiology. During the 1960s, Grmek attempted to provide, in the context of the Annales School’s research program under the (...)
  2. Does God Roll Dice? Neutrality and Determinism in Evolutionary Ecology.Som B. Ale, Abdel Halloway, William A. Mitchell & Christopher J. Whelan - 2019 - Biology and Philosophy 34 (1):3.
    A tension between perspectives that emphasize deterministic versus stochastic processes has sparked controversy in ecology since pre-Darwinian times. The most recent manifestation of the contrasting perspectives arose with Hubbell’s proposed “neutral theory”, which hypothesizes a paramount role for stochasticity in ecological community composition. Here we shall refer to the deterministic and the stochastic perspectives as the niche-based and neutral-based research programs, respectively. Our goal is to represent these perspectives in the context of Lakatos’ notion of a scientific research program. We (...)
  3. Relating Traditional and Academic Ecological Knowledge: Mechanistic and Holistic Epistemologies Across Cultures.David Ludwig & Luana Poliseli - 2018 - Biology and Philosophy 33 (5-6):43.
    Current debates about the integration of traditional and academic ecological knowledge struggle with a dilemma of division and assimilation. On the one hand, the emphasis on differences between traditional and academic perspectives has been criticized as creating an artificial divide that brands TEK as “non-scientific” and contributes to its marginalization. On the other hand, there has been increased concern about inadequate assimilation of Indigenous and other traditional perspectives into scientific practices that disregards the holistic nature and values of TEK. The (...)
  4. Permanence and Extinction of a Diffusive Predator–Prey Model with Robin Boundary Conditions.M. A. Aziz-Alaoui, M. Daher Okiye & A. Moussaoui - 2018 - Acta Biotheoretica 66 (4):367-378.
  5. Theoretical Assessment of the Impact of Climatic Factors in a Vibrio Cholerae Model.G. Kolaye, I. Damakoa, S. Bowong, R. Houe & D. Békollè - 2018 - Acta Biotheoretica 66 (4):279-291.
    A mathematical model for Vibrio Cholerae (V. Cholerae) in a closed environment is considered, with the aim of investigating the impact of climatic factors which exerts a direct influence on the bacterial metabolism and on the bacterial reservoir capacity. We first propose a V. Cholerae mathematical model in a closed environment. A sensitivity analysis using the eFast method was performed to show the most important parameters of the model. After, we extend this V. cholerae model by taking account climatic factors (...)
  6. The Ecological Virus.Maureen A. O'Malley - 2016 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 59:71-79.
    Ecology is usually described as the study of organisms interacting with one another and their environments. From this view of ecology, viruses – not usually considered to be organisms – would merely be part of the environment. Since the late 1980s, however, a growing stream of micrographic, experimental, molecular, and model-based (theoretical) research has been investigating how and why viruses should be understood as ecological actors of the most important sort. Viruses, especially phage, have been revealed as participants in the (...)
  7. Logical Fallacies and Invasion Biology.Radu Cornel Guiaşu & Christopher W. Tindale - 2018 - Biology and Philosophy 33 (5-6):34.
    Leading invasion biologists sometimes dismiss critics and criticisms of their field by invoking “the straw man” fallacy. Critics of invasion biology are also labelled as a small group of “naysayers” or “contrarians”, who are sometimes engaging in “science denialism”. Such unfortunate labels can be seen as a way to possibly suppress legitimate debates and dismiss or minimize reasonable concerns about some aspects of invasion biology, including the uncertainties about the geographic origins and complex environmental impacts of species, and the control (...)
  8. Not Null Enough: Pseudo-Null Hypotheses in Community Ecology and Comparative Psychology.William Bausman & Marta Halina - 2018 - Biology and Philosophy 33 (3-4):30.
    We evaluate a common reasoning strategy used in community ecology and comparative psychology for selecting between competing hypotheses. This strategy labels one hypothesis as a “null” on the grounds of its simplicity and epistemically privileges it as accepted until rejected. We argue that this strategy is unjustified. The asymmetrical treatment of statistical null hypotheses is justified through the experimental and mathematical contexts in which they are used, but these contexts are missing in the case of the “pseudo-null hypotheses” found in (...)
  9. Correction To: Holobionts and the Ecology of Organisms: Multi-Species Communities or Integrated Individuals?Derek Skillings - 2018 - Biology and Philosophy 33 (3-4):28.
    In the original publication, the acknowledgment was published incorrectly. The correct version is given below.
  10. Ecological Hierarchy and Biodiversity.Christopher Lean & Kim Sterelny - 2016 - In Justin Garson, Anya Plutynski & Sahotra Sarkar (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Biodiversity. London: Routledge. pp. 56 - 68.
  11. Why Do Corals Bleach? Conflict and Conflict Mediation in a Host/Symbiont Community.Neil W. Blackstone & Jeff M. Golladay - 2018 - Bioessays 40 (8):1800021.
  12. Ecological and Evolutionary Benefits of Temperate Phage: What Does or Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger.Ellie Harrison & Michael A. Brockhurst - 2017 - Bioessays 39 (12):1700112.
    Infection by a temperate phage can lead to death of the bacterial cell, but sometimes these phages integrate into the bacterial chromosome, offering the potential for a more long-lasting relationship to be established. Here we define three major ecological and evolutionary benefits of temperate phage for bacteria: as agents of horizontal gene transfer, as sources of genetic variation for evolutionary innovation, and as weapons of bacterial competition. We suggest that a coevolutionary perspective is required to understand the roles of temperate (...)
  13. Multispecies individuals.Pierrick Bourrat & Paul E. Griffiths - 2018 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 40 (2):33.
    We assess the arguments for recognising functionally integrated multispecies consortia as genuine biological individuals, including cases of so-called ‘holobionts’. We provide two examples in which the same core biochemical processes that sustain life are distributed across a consortium of individuals of different species. Although the same chemistry features in both examples, proponents of the holobiont as unit of evolution would recognize one of the two cases as a multispecies individual whilst they would consider the other as a compelling case of (...)
  14. Wild Animal Suffering is Intractable.Nicolas Delon & Duncan Purves - 2018 - Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 31 (2):239-260.
    Most people believe that suffering is intrinsically bad. In conjunction with facts about our world and plausible moral principles, this yields a pro tanto obligation to reduce suffering. This is the intuitive starting point for the moral argument in favor of interventions to prevent wild animal suffering. If we accept the moral principle that we ought, pro tanto, to reduce the suffering of all sentient creatures, and we recognize the prevalence of suffering in the wild, then we seem committed to (...)
  15. Where Animals Go.R. McNeill Alexander - 2006 - Biological Theory 1 (4):433-434.
  16. The Coupling of Taxonomy and Function in Microbiomes.S. Andrew Inkpen, Gavin M. Douglas, T. D. P. Brunet, Karl Leuschen, W. Ford Doolittle & Morgan G. I. Langille - 2017 - Biology and Philosophy 32 (6):1225-1243.
    Microbiologists are transitioning from the study and characterization of individual strains or species to the profiling of whole microbiomes and microbial ecology. Equipped with high-throughput methods for studying the taxonomic and functional characteristics of diverse samples, they are just beginning to encounter the conceptual, theoretical, and experimental problems of comparing taxonomy to function, and extracting useful measures from such comparisons. Although still unresolved, these problems are well studied in macro-ecology and are reiterated here as an historical precautionary for microbial ecologists. (...)
  17. In Defence of Biodiversity.Joanna Burch-Brown & Alfred Archer - 2017 - Biology and Philosophy 32 (6):969-997.
    The concept of biodiversity has played a central role within conservation biology over the last thirty years. Precisely how it should be understood, however, is a matter of ongoing debate. In this paper we defend what we call a classic multidimensional conception of biodiversity. We begin by introducing two arguments for eliminating the concept of biodiversity from conservation biology, both of which have been put forward in a recent paper by Santana. The first argument is against the concept’s scientific usefulness. (...)
  18. Population Cycles, Disease, and Networks of Ecological Knowledge.Susan D. Jones - 2017 - Journal of the History of Biology 50 (2):357-391.
    Wildlife populations in the northern reaches of the globe have long been observed to fluctuate or cycle periodically, with dramatic increases followed by catastrophic crashes. Focusing on the early work of Charles S. Elton, this article analyzes how investigations into population cycles shaped the development of Anglo-American animal ecology during the 1920s–1930s. Population cycling revealed patterns that challenged ideas about the “balance” of nature; stimulated efforts to quantify population data; and brought animal ecology into conversation with intellectual debates about natural (...)
  19. From Ecological Records to Big Data: The Invention of Global Biodiversity.Vincent Devictor & Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent - 2016 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 38 (4).
  20. From Ecological Records to Big Data: The Invention of Global Biodiversity.Vincent Devictor & Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent - 2016 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 38 (4).
  21. ‘Big Science’ in the Field: Experimenting with Badgers and Bovine TB, 1995–2015.Angela Cassidy - 2015 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 37 (3):305-325.
  22. ‘Big Science’ in the Field: Experimenting with Badgers and Bovine TB, 1995–2015.Angela Cassidy - 2015 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 37 (3):305-325.
  23. Love is Like Oxygen.Neil W. Blackstone - 2017 - Bioessays 39 (2):1600257.
  24. Love is Like Oxygen.Neil W. Blackstone - 2017 - Bioessays 39 (2):1600257.
  25. The One Past Health Workshop: Connecting Ancient DNA and Zoonosis Research.Sébastien Calvignac-Spencer & Tobias L. Lenz - 2017 - Bioessays 39 (7):1700075.
  26. The One Past Health Workshop: Connecting Ancient DNA and Zoonosis Research.Sébastien Calvignac-Spencer & Tobias L. Lenz - 2017 - Bioessays 39 (7):1700075.
  27. Construction Sites: How Ecology Shapes Development.Jessica A. Bolker - 2016 - Biological Theory 11 (1):42-46.
  28. Conservation Compromises: The MAB and the Legacy of the International Biological Program, 1964–1974.Simone Schleper - 2017 - Journal of the History of Biology 50 (1):133-167.
  29. Epigenetic-Induced Alterations in Sex-Ratios in Response to Climate Change: An Epigenetic Trap?Sofia Consuegra & Carlos M. Rodríguez López - 2016 - Bioessays 38 (10):950-958.
  30. Conflicts Over Host Manipulation Between Different Parasites and Pathogens: Investigating the Ecological and Medical Consequences.Nina Hafer - 2016 - Bioessays 38 (10):1027-1037.
    When parasites have different interests in regard to how their host should behave this can result in a conflict over host manipulation, i.e. parasite induced changes in host behaviour that enhance parasite fitness. Such a conflict can result in the alteration, or even complete suppression, of one parasite's host manipulation. Many parasites, and probably also symbionts and commensals, have the ability to manipulate the behaviour of their host. Non‐manipulating parasites should also have an interest in host behaviour. Given the frequency (...)
  31. Are Humans Disturbing Conditions in Ecology?S. Andrew Inkpen - 2017 - Biology and Philosophy 32 (1):51-71.
    In this paper I argue, first, that ecologists have routinely treated humans—or more specifically, anthropogenic causal factors—as disturbing conditions. I define disturbing conditions as exogenous variables, variables “outside” a model, that when present in a target system, inhibit the applicability or accuracy of the model. This treatment is surprising given that humans play a dominant role in many ecosystems and definitions of ecology contain no fundamental distinction between human and natural. Second, I argue that the treatment of humans as disturbing (...)
  32. Ecology Finding Evolution Finding Ecology: James P. Collins, John Beatty and Jane Maienschein , "Reflections on Ecology and Evolution".YrjÖ Haila - 1989 - Biology and Philosophy 4 (2):235.
  33. Analysing Population Numbers of the House Sparrow in the Netherlands With a Matrix Model and Suggestions for Conservation Measures.Chris Klok, Remko Holtkamp, Rob Apeldoorn, Marcel E. Visser & Lia Hemerik - 2006 - Acta Biotheoretica 54 (3):161-178.
    The House Sparrow (Passer domesticus), formerly a common bird species, has shown a rapid decline in Western Europe over recent decades. In The Netherlands, its decline is apparent from 1990 onwards. Many causes for this decline have been suggested that all decrease the vital rates, i.e. survival and reproduction, but their actual impact remains unknown. Although the House Sparrow has been dominant in The Netherlands, data on life history characteristics for this bird species are scarce: data on reproduction are non-existent, (...)
  34. Effects of Vole Fluctuations on the Population Dynamics of the Barn Owl Tyto Alba.Chris Klok & Andre Roos - 2007 - Acta Biotheoretica 55 (3):227-241.
    Many predator species feed on prey that fluctuates in abundance from year to year. Birds of prey can face large fluctuations in food abundance i.e. small mammals, especially voles. These annual changes in prey abundance strongly affect the reproductive success and mortality of the individual predators and thus can be expected to influence their population dynamics and persistence. The barn owl, for example, shows large fluctuations in breeding success that correlate with the dynamics in voles, their main prey species. Analysis (...)
  35. Elements of Mathematical Ecology. [REVIEW]John Drake - 2002 - Acta Biotheoretica 50 (3):205-207.
  36. Systems Models of Cultural Ecology.J. Dow - 1976 - Social Science Information 15 (6):953-976.
  37. The Ecology of Mating Systems in Hypergynous Dowry Societies.M. Dickemann - 1979 - Social Science Information 18 (2):163-195.
  38. Rethinking Individuality: The Dialectics of the Holobiont.Scott F. Gilbert & Alfred I. Tauber - 2016 - Biology and Philosophy 31 (6):839-853.
    Given immunity’s general role in the organism’s economy—both in terms of its internal environment as well as mediating its external relations—immune theory has expanded its traditional formulation of preserving individual autonomy to one that includes accounting for nutritional processes and symbiotic relationships that require immune tolerance. When such a full ecological alignment is adopted, the immune system becomes the mediator of both defensive and assimilative environmental intercourse, where a balance of immune rejection and tolerance governs the complex interactions of the (...)
  39. An Attempt to Reconstruct the Curriculum Discourse Based on Ecological Thoughts.Mahn Seug Oh - 2011 - The Journal of Moral Education 23 (1):1.
  40. A Study on the Ecological Implications of Tao-Te-Ching. 이윤주 - 2009 - Journal of Ethics 1 (74):97-123.
  41. A Critical Inquiry on Marx's Ecology. 이범웅 - 2009 - Journal of Ethics 1 (73):323-347.
  42. Microbial Ecology and Geoelectric Responses Across a Groundwater Plume.Rory Doherty, Blathnaid McPolin, Bernd Kulessa, Alessandra Frau, Anna Kulakova, Christopher C. R. Allen & Michael J. Larkin - 2015 - Interpretation: SEG 3 (4):SAB9-SAB21.
  43. Literature, Knowledge, and Cultural Ecology.William Paulson - 1993 - Substance 22 (2/3):27.
  44. Modeling Social-Ecological Problems in Coastal Ecosystems: A Case Study.John Forrester, Richard Greaves, Howard Noble & Richard Taylor - 2014 - Complexity 19 (6):73-82.
  45. Viability Analysis of Multi-Fishery.C. Sanogo, S. Ben Miled & N. Raissi - 2012 - Acta Biotheoretica 60 (1-2):189-207.
    Abstract This work is about the viability domain corresponding to a model of fisheries management. The dynamic is subject of two constraints. The biological constraint ensures the stock perennity where as the economic one ensures a minimum income for the fleets. Using the mathematical concept of viability kernel, we find out a viability domain which simultaneously enables the fleets to exploit the resource, to ensure a minimum income and stock perennity. Content Type Journal Article Category Regular Article Pages 1-19 DOI (...)
  46. Book Review: Schwarz, Astrid E. , Wasserwüste – Mikrokosmos – Ökosystem. Eine Geschichte der “Eroberung” des Wasserraums [Water Desert – Microcosm – Ecosystem. A History of the, Conquest“ of Aquatic Space]. Freiburg, Rombach-Verlag, 350 Pp., 2003, ISBN 3-7930-9318-2. [REVIEW]Kurt Jax - 2005 - Acta Biotheoretica 53 (1):49-51.
  47. On Territorial Behavior and Other Factors Influencing Habitat Distribution in Birds.Stephen Dewitt Fretwell & James Stevan Calver - 1969 - Acta Biotheoretica 19 (1):37-44.
  48. Reponses a des Signaux Mecaniques: Communications Inter Et Intracellulaires Chez les vegetauxResponses to Mechanical Signals: Inter and Intracellular Communications in Plants.M. O. Desbiez, J. Boissay, P. Bonnin, P. Bourgeade, N. Boyer, G. de Jaegher, J. M. Frachisse, C. Henry & J. L. Julien - 1991 - Acta Biotheoretica 39 (3-4):299-308.
  49. Detecting Zinc Absorption in Contaminated Soils with Tree Species.Seyed Armin Hashemi & Alireza Hosseinzadeh - 2015 - Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa 70 (2):145-148.
    Phytoremediation is the technology of using plants for decontamination of heavy metals and their accumulation in the different tissues and organs of plants. The contamination resulting from heavy metals is of great significance due to its sustainability in the environment. The absorption of zinc in contaminated soils was studied using one-year Arizona cypress seedlings, which were placed in vases. After the passage of each 55-day time period from the growth of the seedlings, the shoots (leaves and stem), roots and soil (...)
  50. Parrots of Africa, Madagascar and the Mascarene Islands: Biology, Ecology and Conservation.Penny Olsen - 2014 - Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa 69 (1):55-56.
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