Borda-de-Água, L., Borges, P.A.V. & Halley, J.M. (2022) Editorial: theoretical approaches to community ecology.Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 9, 824432. DOI:10.3389/fevo.2021.824432 (IF2020 4,171; Q2 Ecology)
Our understanding of the processes determining community diversity and how to interpret community patterns is a work in progress. Since the landmark work by MacArthur and Wilson on Island Biogeography, circa 50 years ago, we have seen many exciting theoretical advances in community ecology. But is it enough? The last two decades have seen remarkable growth in the availability of data, especially biodiversity data, via satellite technology, next-generation sequencing and an explosion in the number of online databases. At the same time, the expanding rate and complexity of climatic change brings unprecedented threats to ecological communities. The conjunction of these changes is creating both new problems and new possibilities for Community Ecology. Thus, now is an appropriate moment to consider the role of theory in the development of new approaches to Community Ecology, its biodiversity patterns and the processes that influence them.
Theory is an important part of Community Ecology. Ecological communities are so complex that even a small part of any of them presents a world in itself, with diversity and complexity beyond the scope of any model to describe fully. So, every community theory is crude. Nevertheless, even crude theories provide the means for us to better understand these communities. Theory with a strong mathematical basis is a characteristic of any mature science. It describes in a mathematical way the first principles and mechanisms by which processes operate and interact, and this enables the science to renew itself when exposed to new types of data or when confronted with new types of problems. Such theory is thus necessary for ecology in general, and for Community Ecology in particular, because it enables Community Ecology to develop as a predictive science. In this way, Community Ecology can itself evolve and provide tools and perspectives that will assist our societies with responding to current and future environmental challenges.
This Research Topic will provide an opportunity to explore the state-of-the-art in theoretical Community Ecology and to reveal significant new research on the patterns and processes that drive communities. We welcome contributions related to the following areas:
• Community dynamics and evolution
• Community interactions and assembly processes
• Exploring different aspects of diversity (species richness, phylogenetic, functional)
• New community models or fresh perspectives on existing models
• Novel techniques, new analytical developments, and innovative computational approaches
• Ways of visualizing diversity, such as SADs and SARs
While the emphasis of this issue is on theoretical approaches, we would also like to see research comparing theoretical predictions with real data. We welcome work describing communities on all scales, from individuals to ecosystems, as well as multi-scale approaches. Studies on all taxa are welcome.
With this issue, we would like to bring together researchers from different backgrounds with common interests in ecology, hence we encourage scientists from other fields, such as, physics, mathematics or computer science to submit work relevant to Community Ecology.