Posted by: Jeremy Fox | October 6, 2011

Interesting recent and forthcoming Oikos papers

The editor’s choice posts are Chris Lortie’s domain, but he’s very busy right now and so I thought I’d fill the gap by briefly highlighting a few recent and forthcoming Oikos papers that caught my eye.

The current issue of Oikos has lots of intriguing-looking stuff. In particular, I like Adams & Vellend’s model of how intraspecific genetic diversity and species diversity can be mutually-supporting. It partially comes down to whether the presence of more species, or more genotypes, creates an appropriately non-transitive competitive hierarchy among all genotypes of all competing species. This may well be a general principle. Some more system-specific features of the model also matter (it’s tailored to grass-clover competition).

In the same issue, Meier et al. have a neat study of how local mate competition selects against the sex-specific dispersal distances that are common in many species. They use both a conceptually-simple model, and a complex individual-based simulation to make their argument.

Song et al. (forthcoming) argue that the “Tangled Bank” hypothesis for the evolution of sexual reproduction (genetically-diverse offspring occupy different niches and so avoid competing with one another, thereby enhancing parental fitness) has been too quickly dismissed. There are close connections between this classic evolutionary idea (there’s a version of it in Darwin’s Origin) and recent ideas about the interplay of intraspecific genetic diversity and interspecific species diversity such as Adams & Vellend.

Schroder et al. (forthcoming) report replicated whole lake experiments, involving the imposition and subsequent removal of a perturbation, with novel effects on food web states. They find that perturbation generates neither an irreversible shift to an alternate stable state, nor a reversible shift. Rather, after removal of the perturbation the food web settles into a state distinct from either the pre-perturbation or perturbed state. This is a novel result as far as I know, and not a possibility that theory has much considered.

Finally, Barto & Rillig (forthcoming) report what looks to be a very important study of dissemination biases in ecology. Studies which report extreme effect sizes tend to be published first, and in in the highest-impact journals, independent of sample size. More worryingly, there’s a tendency for theory tenacity: studies that support our ideas are more heavily cited than those that don’t, again independent of sample size (=study reliability). Apparently, one reason zombie ideas are so hard to kill is that we don’t want them to die!

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