Indexically Structured Ecological Communities

Philosophy of Science 85 (3):501-522 (2018)
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Ecological communities are seldom, if ever, biological individuals. They lack causal boundaries as the populations that constitute communities are not congruent and rarely have persistent functional roles regulating the communities’ higher-level properties. Instead we should represent ecological communities indexically, by identifying ecological communities via the network of weak causal interactions between populations that unfurl from a starting set of populations. This precisification of ecological communities helps identify how community properties remain invariant, and why they have robust characteristics. This respects the diversity and aggregational nature of these complex systems while still vindicating them as units worthy of investigation.

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Christopher Lean
University of Sydney