Opening the Pandora box of community ecology – The value of long-term data sets and collaborative research
Community ecologists study how communities of plants, animals and other organisms vary in space and time, how they interact and what controls these patterns. To do this they usually either observe (more or less) natural communities or conduct experimental manipulation in the field (in situ experiments) or in controlled conditions (mesocosms, microcosms). Observational studies of natural communities have the longest history and have contributed to major (and often controversial) theories in ecology such as the intermediate disturbance hypothesis (IDH). Starting with the more easily studies taxonomic groups such as vascular plants observational studies of natural communities have expanded to covering numerous taxonomic groups, including microbes and of course testate amoebae.
In order to describe the ecological preferences of species numerous plots need to be studied, typically in the range of 50-100 or more if possible. And even so, most studies end up with a fair number of rare species, which…
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