Ecology: Functions, Patterns, and Evolution

Introduction..................................................................................................289

Exploring the Mechanisms: From Physiology to Ecophysiology

and Functional Ecology...............................................................................289

The Search of General Patterns: Comparative Ecology...........................290

Fernando Valladares Experimental Ecology..................................................................................290

Centro de Ciencias Evolutionary Ecology...................................................................................291

Medioambientales References.....................................................................................................291

Introduction

Ecology is the study of living organisms and their environment in an attempt to explain and predict. While natural history involves the accumulation of detailed data with emphasis on the autecology of each species, the objectives of ecology in general and of functional ecology in particular are to develop predictive theories and to assemble the data to develop general models. Functional ecology has three basic components: 1) constructing trait matrices through screening of various plant and animal species, 2) exploring empirical relationships among these traits, and 3) determining the relationships between traits and environments.111 Studies in functional ecology encompass a wide range of approaches, from individuals to populations; from mechanistically detailed to deliberately simplified, black-box simulations; and from deductive to inductive.121 Functional ecology is concerned with the links between structure and function, the existence of general patterns among species, and the evolutionary connections among these patterns. And functional ecology is, above all, timely and pertinent, because the environmental degradation associated with human development is rapidly destroying the very systems that ecologists seek to understand. If we are to anticipate the extent and repercussions of global change in natural habitats, we first need to understand how organisms and ecosystems function.

 
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