This “paper” is available free of charge on the website of the journal.
Natural Laws, Vacant Niches and Superorganisms. A Response to
Attualità biologica / News and Views
PUNTI DI VISTA / VIEWPOINTS
Rivista di Biologia / Biology Forum 101 (2009), pp. 331-352.
We conclude that Woodley’s evidence for his claim that evolu-
tion is characterised by generally unidirectional lineage degenera-
tion that terminates in overspecialization with resulting extinction
is not convincing. The same applies to the evidence in support of
his claim that niche space may be globally but not locally unsatu-
rated with species, and that ecosystems exhibit superorganismal
properties and can be considered as complex adaptive systems in
their own right. – The entire controversy about the validity of the
term vacant niche really amounts to a controversy about whether
ecosystems are generally saturated with species and individuals,
i.e., in equilibrium, or whether niche space is largely unsaturated,
i.e. in non-equilibrium. Acceptance of one of these paradigms
based on empirical evidence has important consequences for how
we deal with conservation of habitats and ecosystems.