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Fundamental Processes in EcologyAn earth systems approach$
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David M Wilkinson

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780198568469

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198568469.001.0001

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Tradeoffs and biodiversity

Tradeoffs and biodiversity

(p.40) 4. Tradeoffs and biodiversity
Fundamental Processes in Ecology

David M. Wilkinson

Oxford University Press

Tradeoffs are a fundamental aspect of biodiversity as they prevent a few species from monopolizing the planet. Well-known ecological concepts, such as the niche, only make sense in the context of this more fundamental idea of tradeoff. The resulting biodiversity will have a positive Gaian effect, that is, it will tend to make an ecological community more stable than if it was composed of a smaller number of species. Biodiversity does not evolve to help stabilize the system (except in the limited sense that taxon poor systems may be more prone to extinction), it is an inevitable by-product of tradeoffs and other processes such as geographical isolation. One potentially important way to think about the Gaian effect of biodiversity is the idea of the ‘portfolio effect’ from economics, although other ideas, such as Grime's ‘transient species’ are also important.

Keywords:   tradeoff, biodiversity, niche, portfolio effect, transient species, ecological community

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