Three Kinds of Niche Construction

British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 73 (2):351-372 (2022)
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Abstract

Niche construction theory concerns how organisms can change selection pressures by altering the feature–factor relationship between themselves and their environment. These alterations are standardly understood to be brought about through two kinds of organism–environment interaction: perturbative and relocational niche construction. We argue that a reconceptualization is needed on the grounds that if a niche is understood as the feature–factor relationship, then there are three fundamental ways in which organisms can engage in niche construction: constitutive, relational, and external niche construction. We further motivate our reconceptualization by showing some examples of organismic activities that fall outside of the current categorization of niche construction, but nonetheless should be included. We end by discussing two objections to niche construction and show how our reconceptualization helps to undercut these objections. 1Introduction2Niche Construction Theory 2.1The standard account of niche construction2.2Two problems with the standard account of niche construction3Three Kinds of Niche Construction 3.1Constitutive niche construction3.2Relational niche construction3.3External niche construction4Conceptual Improvement on Niche Construction Theory 4.1Constitutive niche construction4.2Relational niche construction4.3External niche construction5The Status of Niche Construction Theory within Evolutionary Theory 5.1Is niche construction a helpful addition to evolutionary theory?5.2Is niche construction an evolutionary process?6Conclusion

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Author Profiles

Bendik Hellem Aaby
University of Oslo