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Vegetation change: a reunifying concept in plant ecology

Davis, M.A., Pergl, J., Truscott, A-M, Kollmann, J., Bakker, J.P., Domenech, R., Prach, K., Prieur-Richard, A-H, Veeneklaas, R.M., Pyšek, P., del Moral, R., Hobbs, R.J., Collins, S.L., A. Pickett, S.T. and Reich, P.B. (2005) Vegetation change: a reunifying concept in plant ecology. Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics, 7 (1). pp. 69-76.

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Specialization can become detrimental to a discipline if it fosters intellectual isolation. A bibliographic analysis of several research areas in plant ecology (invasion biology, succession ecology, gap/patch dynamics, and global change effects on plants) revealed that plant ecologists do not regularly make use of the findings and insights of very similar studies being conducted in other research subdisciplines, nor do they try to make their findings and insights easily accessible to researchers in other areas. Invasion papers were least likely to be cross-linked (6%) with other fields, whereas gap/patch dynamics papers were most likely to be cross-linked (15%). This tendency toward intellectual isolation may be impeding efforts to achieve more powerful generalizations in ecology by reducing the number of potentially productive exchanges among researchers. In this paper, we illustrate this problem using the example of several speciality areas that study vegetation change. We argue that, rather than characterizing studies of vegetation change on the basis of what distinguishes them from one another, plant ecologists would benefit from concentrating on what such studies have in common. As an example, we propose that several speciality areas of plant ecology could be reunified under the term ecology of vegetation change. Individual researchers, journals, and ecological societies all can take specific steps to increase the useful exchange of ideas and information among research areas. Promoting rapid and more effective communication among diverse researchers may reduce the proliferation of narrow theories, concepts, and terminologies associated with particular research areas. In this way, we can expedite our understanding of the ecological mechanisms and consequences associated with plant communities.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Environmental Science
Publisher: Urban und Fischer Verlag Jena
Copyright: © 2004 Elsevier GmbH.
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