Kirk Winemiller, Aquatic Ecology Lab, Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences, TAMU
Title: “Functional traits, convergent evolution, and a periodic table of niches”
Abstract: Ecology is often said to lack general theories sufficiently predictive for practical applications. Noting community ecology’s reinvigorated interest in functional traits, I will explore the feasibility of a periodic table of niches, an idea first proposed by Robert MacArthur. Pursuit of niche ordination schemes is already well underway, and more thought should be devoted to determining traits associated with fundamental niche dimensions and how these dimensions interact to determine fitness within different environmental settings. Consistent patterns of trait intercorrelation and patterns of convergent evolution make possible species ordination within a limited number of fundamental niche dimensions. Using tropical fish assemblage dataset, I will examine two basic approaches for creating periodic tables of niches: niche ordination within continuous gradient space, and niche classification according to discrete categories. Periodic tables of niches could make community ecology a more predictive science that enhances environmental and natural resource management.