Synthese 1 (10):1-19 (2020)

Christopher Lean
Western Sydney University
If ecological systems are functionally organised, they can possess functions or malfunctions. Natural function would provide justification for conservationists to act for the protection of current ecological arrangements and control the presence of populations that create ecosystem malfunctions. Invasive species are often thought to be malfunctional for ecosystems, so functional arrangement would provide an objective reason for their control. Unfortunately for this prospect, I argue no theory of function, which can support such normative conclusions, can be applied to large scale ecosystems. Instead ecological systems have causal structure, with small clusters of populations achieving functional arrangement. This, however, does not leave us without reason to control invasive species. We can look at the causal arrangement of ecological systems for populations that support ecological features that we should preserve. Populations that play a causal role in reducing biodiversity should be controlled, because biodiversity is a good all prudent agents should want to preserve.
Keywords Function  Ecology  Conservation  Biodiversity  Invasive species  Community
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DOI 10.1007/s11229-020-02635-x
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