Biology & Philosophy

, Volume 26, Issue 6, pp 793–812 | Cite as

Ecosystem engineering, experiment, and evolution

Article

Abstract

This paper argues that philosophers should pay more attention to the idea of ecosystem engineering and to the scientific literature surrounding it. Ecosystem engineering is a broad but clearly delimited concept that is less subject to many of the “it encompasses too much” criticisms that philosophers have directed at niche construction. The limitations placed on the idea of ecosystem engineering point the way to a narrower idea of niche construction. Moreover, experimental studies in the ecosystem engineering literature provide detailed accounts of particular empirical situations in which we cannot neglect the O term in dE/dt = g (O, E), which helps us get beyond verbal arguments and simple models purporting to show that niche construction must not be ignored as a factor in evolution. Finally, this literature demonstrates that while ecosystem engineering studies may not require us to embrace a new evolutionary process, as niche construction advocates have claimed, they do teach us that the myriad abiotic factors concealed by the abstract term ‘environment’ are often controlled in large part by organisms.

Keywords

Ecosystem engineering Niche construction Evolution Causal factors Experiment 

References

  1. Baldwin JM (1896) A new factor in evolution. Am Nat 30:441–451, 536–553Google Scholar
  2. Bell SS (1985) Habitat complexity of polychaete tube-caps: influence of architecture on dynamics of a meioepibenthic assemblage. J Mar Res 43:647–671CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bell SS, Coen LD (1982a) Investigations on epibenthic meiofauna. I. Abundances on and repopulation of the tube-caps of Diopatra cuprea (Polychaeta: Onuphidae) in a subtropical system. Mar Biol 67:303–309CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bell SS, Coen LD (1982b) Investigations on epibenthic meiofauna. II. Influence of microhabitat and macroalgae on abundance of small invertebrates on Diopatra cuprea (Bosc) (Polychaeta: Onuphidae) tube-caps in Virginia. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 61:175–188CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bell SS, Hicks GRF (1991) Marine landscapes and faunal recruitment: a field test with seagrasses and copepods. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 73:61–68CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Berke SK (2010) Functional groups of ecosystem engineers: a proposed classification with comments on current issues. Integr Comp Biol 50:147–157CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bock WJ (1980) The definition and recognition of biological adaptation. Am Zool 20:217–227Google Scholar
  8. Bosc LAG (1801) Histoire naturelle des vers, contenant leur description et leur moeurs; avec figures dessinées d’après nature. Deterville, ParisGoogle Scholar
  9. Brakefield PM (2006) Evo-devo and constraints on selection. Trends Ecol Evol 21:362–368CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Brandon RN (1990) Adaptation and environment. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJGoogle Scholar
  11. Brandon RN (2001) Organism and environment revisited. In: Singh RS, Krimbas CB, Paul DB, Beatty J (eds) Thinking about evolution. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 336–352Google Scholar
  12. Breemen Nv (1995) How Sphagnum bogs down other plants. Trends Ecol Evol 10:270–275CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Callaway R (2003) Long-term effects of imitation polychaete tubes on benthic fauna: they anchor Mytilus edulis (L.) banks. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 283:115–132CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Canfield DE (2005) The early history of atmospheric oxygen: homage to Robert M. Garrels. Annu Rev Earth Planet Sci 33:1–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Cantor T (1842) General features of Chusan, with remarks on the flora and fauna of that Island. Ann Mag Nat Hist 9:265–278, 361–370, 481–493Google Scholar
  16. Crooks JA (1998) Habitat alteration and community-level effects of an exotic mussel, Musculista senhousia. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 162:137–152CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Crooks JA (2002) Characterizing ecosystem-level consequences of biological invasions: the role of ecosystem engineers. Oikos 97:153–166CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Crooks JA, Khim HS (1999) Architectural versus biological effects of a habitat-altering, exotic mussel, Musculista senhousia. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 240:53–75CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Cuddington K, Wilson WG, Hastings A (2009) Ecosystem engineers: feedback and population dynamics. Am Nat 173:488–498CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Darwin C (1859) On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. John Murray, LondonGoogle Scholar
  21. Darwin C (1881) The formation of vegetable mould, through the action of worms, with observations on their habits. John Murray, LondonGoogle Scholar
  22. Dauer DM, Tourtellotte GH, Ewing RM (1982) Benthic studies of the lower Chesapeake Bay. 2. Oyster shells and artificial worm tubes–the role of refuges in structuring benthic communities of the lower Chesapeake Bay. Int Rev Gesamten Hydrobiol 67:661–677Google Scholar
  23. Dawkins R (1982) The extended phenotype: the gene as the unit of selection. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  24. Dawkins R (2004) Extended phenotype–but not too extended. A reply to Laland, Turner and Jablonka. Biol Philos 19:377–396CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Dawson TE (1998) Fog in the California redwood forest: ecosystem inputs and use by plants. Oecologia 117:476–485CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Dean TA (1981) Structural aspects of sessile invertebrates as organizing forces in an estuarine fouling community. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 53:163–180CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Dewey J (1898) Evolution and ethics. Monist 8:321–341Google Scholar
  28. Eckman JE (1985) Flow disruption by an animal-tube mimic affects sediment bacterial-colonization. J Mar Res 43:419–435CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Eckman JE, Nowell ARM (1984) Boundary skin friction and sediment transport about an animal-tube mimic. Sedimentology 31:851–862CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Erwin DH (2008) Macroevolution of ecosystem engineering, niche construction and diversity. Trends Ecol Evol 23:304–310CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Flecker AS (1996) Ecosystem engineering by a dominant detritivore in a diverse tropical stream. Ecology 77:1845–1854CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Godfrey-Smith P (2000) Niche construction in biological and philosophical theories. Behav Brain Sci 23:153–154CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Godfrey-Smith P (2001) Organism, environment, and dialectics. In: Singh RS, Krimbas CB, Paul DB, Beatty J (eds) Thinking about evolution: historical, philosophical, and political perspectives. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 253–266Google Scholar
  34. Gratwicke B, Speight MR (2005) Effects of habitat complexity on Caribbean marine fish assemblages. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 292:301–310CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Griffiths PE (2005) Review of ‘Niche Construction’. Biol Philos 20:11–20CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Gutiérrez JL, Jones CG (2006) Physical ecosystem engineers as agents of biogeochemical heterogeneity. Bioscience 56:227–236CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Hastings A, Byers JE, Crooks JA, Cuddington K, Jones CG, Lambrinos JG, Talley TS, Wilson WG (2007) Ecosystem engineering in space and time. Ecol Lett 10:153–164CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Jablonski D (2008) Biotic interactions and macroevolution: extensions and mismatches across scales and levels. Evolution 62:715–739CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Jones CG, Gutiérrez JL (2007) On the purpose, meaning, and usage of the physical ecosystem engineering concept. In: Cuddington K, Byers JE, Wilson WG, Hastings A (eds) Ecosystem engineers: from plants to protists. Amsterdam, Elsevier, pp 3–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Jones CG, Lawton JH, Shachak M (1994) Organisms as ecosystem engineers. Oikos 69:373–386CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Jones CG, Lawton JH, Shachak M (1997) Positive and negative effects of organisms as ecosystem engineers. Ecology 78:1946–1957CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Kidwell SM, Jablonski D (1983) Taphonomic feedback: ecological consequences of shell accumulation. In: Tevesz MJS, McCall PL (eds) Biotic interactions in recent and fossil benthic communities. Plenum, New York, pp 195–248Google Scholar
  43. Laland KN (2004) Extending the extended phenotype. Biol Philos 19:313–325CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Laland KN, Sterelny K (2006) Seven reasons (not) to neglect niche construction. Evolution 60:1751–1762Google Scholar
  45. Laland KN, Odling-Smee FJ, Feldman MW (1999) Evolutionary consequences of niche construction and their implications for ecology. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 96:10242–10247CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Laland KN, Odling-Smee FJ, Feldman MW (2000) Niche construction, biological evolution, and cultural change. Behav Brain Sci 23:131–175CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Laland KN, Odling-Smee FJ, Feldman MW (2005) On the breadth and significance of niche construction: a reply to Griffiths, Okasha and Sterelny. Biol Philos 20:37–55CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Levins R, Lewontin RC (1985) The dialectical biologist. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  49. Lewontin RC (1978) Adaptation. Sci Am 239:213–230CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Lewontin RC (1983) Gene, organism and environment. In: Bendall DS (ed) Evolution from molecules to men. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 273–285Google Scholar
  51. Luckenbach MW (1986) Sediment stability around animal tubes: the roles of hydrodynamic processes and biotic activity. Limnol Oceanogr 31:779–787CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Maclaurin J, Sterelny K (2008) What is biodiversity?. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  53. Manne L, Pimm SL (1996) Engineered food webs. Curr Biol 6:29–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Morton B (1974) Some Aspects of the biology, population dynamics, and functional morphology of Musculista senhausia Benson (Bivalvia, Mytilidae). Pac Sci 28:19–33Google Scholar
  55. Myers AC (1972) Tube-worm-sediment relationships of Diopatra cuprea (Polychaeta: Onuphidae). Mar Biol 17:350–356CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Ne’eman G, Goubitz S, Nathan R (2004) Reproductive traits of Pinus halepensis in the light of fire–a critical review. Plant Ecol 171:69–79CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Odling-Smee FJ (1988) Niche-constructing phenotypes. In: Plotkin HC (ed) The role of behavior in evolution. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, pp 73–132Google Scholar
  58. Odling-Smee FJ, Laland KN, Feldman MW (1996) Niche construction. Am Nat 147:641–648CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Odling-Smee FJ, Laland KN, Feldman MW (2003) Niche construction: the neglected process in evolution. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  60. Okasha S (2005) On niche construction and extended evolutionary theory. Biol Philos 20:1–10CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Parras A, Casadío S (2006) The oyster Crassostrea? hatcheri (Ortmann, 1897), a physical ecosystem engineer from the upper Oligocene–lower Miocene of Patagonia, southern Argentina. Palaios 21:168–186CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Pearce T (2010a) ‘A great complication of circumstances’–Darwin and the economy of nature. J Hist Biol 43:493–528CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Pearce T (2010b) From ‘circumstances’ to ‘environment’–Herbert Spencer and the origins of the idea of organism-environment interaction. Stud Hist Philos Biol Biomed Sci 41:241–252Google Scholar
  64. Pearce T (2011) Evolution and constraints on variation: variant specification and range of assessment. Philos Sci 78Google Scholar
  65. Pearce T, LaBarbera M (2009a) A comparative study of the mechanical properties of Mytilid byssal threads. J Exp Biol 212:1442–1448CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Pearce T, LaBarbera M (2009b) Biomechanics of byssal threads outside the Mytilidae: Atrina rigida and Ctenoides mitis. J Exp Biol 212:1449–1454CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Reichman OJ, Seabloom EW (2002) The role of pocket gophers as subterranean ecosystem engineers. Trends Ecol Evol 17:44–49CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Schwilk DW (2003) Flammability is a niche construction trait: canopy architecture affects fire intensity. Am Nat 162:725–733CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Schwilk DW, Ackerly DD (2001) Flammability and serotiny as strategies: correlated evolution in pines. Oikos 94:326–336CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Sterelny K (2001) Niche construction, developmental systems, and the extended replicator. In: Oyama S, Griffiths PE, Gray RD (eds) Cycles of contingency: developmental systems and evolution. MIT Press, Cambridge, pp 333–349Google Scholar
  71. Sterelny K (2005) Made by each other: organisms and their environment. Biol Philos 20:21–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. West-Eberhard MJ (2003) Developmental plasticity and evolution. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  73. Wilby A (2002) Ecosystem engineering: a trivialized concept? Trends Ecol Evol 17:307CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Woodin SA (1978) Refuges, disturbance, and community structure: a marine soft-bottom example. Ecology 59:274–284CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Woodin SA (1981) Disturbance and community structure in a shallow water sand flat. Ecology 62:1052–1066CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Wright JP, Jones CG (2006) The concept of organisms as ecosystem engineers ten years on: progress, limitations, and challenges. Bioscience 56:203–209CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy, Rotman Institute of PhilosophyUniversity of Western OntarioLondonCanada

Personalised recommendations