Relationships Between the Energetics of Species and Large-Scale Species Richness
Although energy is frequently mentioned along with a number of other factors affecting ecological communities, it does not occupy the central position that it does in physics or chemistry. In particular, energy concepts at the ecosystem level seem very weakly connected with energy at the species level and with the dynamics of species populations.
This chapter addresses the general question of how important a role energy plays in current ecological thinking. In particular, recent examination of species richness data on a continental scale indicates strong correlations with available energy. An explanation of these patterns is discussed. First, factors such as spatial heterogeneity and disturbances are important at the local level. Second, increased available energy favors the success of specialized strategies. Third, this explanation can be scaled to larger spatial scales to help explain species richness—energy curves.
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