Under niche construction: An operational bridge between ecology, evolution, and ecosystem science

Matthews, B., De Meester, L., Jones, C. G., Ibelings, B. W., Bouma, T. J., Nuutinen, V., van de Koppel, J. & Odling-Smee, J., May-2014, In : Ecological monographs. 84, 2, p. 245-263 19 p.

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All living organisms modify their biotic and abiotic environment. Niche construction theory posits that organism-mediated modifications to the environment can change selection pressures and influence the evolutionary trajectories of natural populations. While there is broad support for this proposition in general, there is considerable uncertainty about how niche construction is related to other similar concepts in ecology and evolution. Comparative studies dealing with certain aspects of niche construction are increasingly common, but there is a troubling lack of experimental tests of the core concepts of niche construction theory. Here, we propose an operational framework to evaluate comparative and experimental evidence of the evolutionary consequences of niche construction, and suggest how such research can improve our understanding of ecological and evolutionary dynamics in ecosystems. We advocate for a shift toward explicit experimental tests of how organism-mediated environmental change can influence the selection pressures underlying evolutionary responses, as well as targeted field-based comparative research to identify the mode of evolution by niche construction and assess its importance in natural populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)245-263
Number of pages19
JournalEcological monographs
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May-2014
Externally publishedYes


  • niche construction, eco-evolutionary dynamics, trophic interactions, coevolution, eco-evolutionary feedbacks, alternative stable states, ecosystem engineering, diffuse coevolution, NATURAL-SELECTION, TROPHIC INTERACTIONS, POECILIA-RETICULATA, EXTENDED PHENOTYPE, ADAPTIVE RADIATION, LOCAL ADAPTATION, RAPID EVOLUTION, REGIME SHIFTS, GREEN-ALGA, DYNAMICS

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