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Old 10-03-2014, 12:24 PM   #1
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The Thermodynamic Theory of Ecology | Simons Foundation

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He has developed what he calls the maximum entropy (MaxEnt) theory of ecology, which may offer a solution to a long-standing problem in ecology: how to calculate the total number of species in an ecosystem, as well as other important numbers, based on extremely limited information — which is all that ecologists, no matter how many years they spend in the field, ever have.
Five years ago, the Ghats convinced him that what he thought was possible from back-of-the-envelope calculations could work in the real world. He and his colleagues will soon publish the results of a study that estimates the number of insect and tree species living in a tropical forest in Panama. The paper will also suggest how MaxEnt could give species estimates in the Amazon, a swath of more than 2 million square miles of land that is notoriously difficult to survey.
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The simplification of a complex ecosystem into just a handful of variables has fueled criticisms of MaxEnt, because it assumes that those numbers and whatever processes generate them are the only things shaping the environment.
In essence, it generates predictions of biodiversity without taking into account how that diversity arises. It implies that the details many ecologists focus on might not matter if you want to understand the larger patterns of an ecosystem.

Harte said he usually gets two responses: “You’ve opened up a whole new theory, and you’re an idiot, because we all know that mechanism matters in ecology.”
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Old 10-03-2014, 12:27 PM   #2
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Another article to keep the brain cells active.

Findings From Tangle-Web Spiders Support Group Evolution | Simons Foundation

Elusive Form of Evolution Seen in Spiders

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A study of spider colonies supports a controversial idea in evolution — that natural selection can act on communities as well as on individuals.
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