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Oecologia. 2003 Jun;136(1):1-13. Epub 2003 Apr 11.

Toward an ecological synthesis: a case for habitat selection.

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  • 1Department of Biology, Lakehead University, P7B 5E1, Thunder Bay, ON, Canada,


Habitat selection, and its associated density and frequency-dependent evolution, has a profound influence on such vital phenomena as population regulation, species interactions, the assembly of ecological communities, and the origin and maintenance of biodiversity. Different strategies of habitat selection, and their importance in ecology and evolution, can often be revealed simply by plots of density in adjacent habitats. For individual species, the strategies are closely intertwined with mechanisms of population regulation, and with the persistence of populations through time. For interacting species, strategies of habitat selection are not only responsible for species coexistence, but provide one of the most convenient mechanisms for measuring competition, and the various community structures caused by competitive interactions. Other kinds of interactions, such as those between predators and prey, demonstrate that an understanding of the coevolution of habitat-selection strategies among strongly interacting species is essential to properly interpret their spatial and temporal dynamics. At the evolutionary scale, the frequency dependence associated with habitat selection may often allow populations to diverge and diversify into separate species. Habitat selection thereby demonstrates how we can map microevolutionary strategies in behavior onto their population and community consequences, and from there, onto macroevolutionary patterns of speciation and adaptive radiation. We can anticipate that future studies of habitat selection will not only help us complete those maps, but that they will also continue to enrich the panoply of ideas that shape evolutionary ecology.

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