Simberloff, Daniel Department of Biological Science, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida.
Last reviewed:March 2021
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- Spatial distribution patterns
- Functional organization
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An assemblage of living organisms occurring together in an area. Ecological communities are aggregations of organisms characterized by a distinctive combination of two or more ecologically related species (Fig. 1). The nature of the forces that knit assemblages of living organisms into organized systems and those properties of assemblages that manifest this organization have been topics of intense debate among ecologists. On the one hand, there are those who view a community as simply consisting of species with similar physical requirements, such as temperature, soil type, or light regime. The similarity of requirements dictates that these species be found together, but interactions between the species are of secondary importance and the level of organization is low. On the other hand, there are those who conceive of the community as a highly organized, holistic entity, with species inextricably and complexly linked to one another and to the physical environment, so that characteristic patterns recur, and properties arise that one can neither understand nor predict from a knowledge of the component species. In this view, the ecosystem (physical environment plus its community) is as well organized as a living organism, and constitutes a superorganism. Between these extremes are those who perceive some community organization, but not nearly enough to invoke images of holistic superorganisms. See also: Ecology; Ecosystem; Species concept
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