chapter  4
Pages 48

Although ecologists may now avoid terms related to balance, equilibrium and even competition, perhaps in efforts to circumvent these hotly debated concepts, populations and communities are legitimate units of study only if they are considered to be structured relative to perceived equilibria. Even if they are claimed to be “non-equilibrium”, a perspective that is increasingly accepted, such a state is specifiable only in relation to the expectations of an equilibrium of some sort (Walter 2008). The dynamics emphasized in demographic ecology are consequently those that restore equilibrium conditions, or those that stabilize ecological systems (Pimm 1991, Cooper 2001, 2003). This direction is strongly evident in the questions that drive so much ecological research, about population regulation, density effects, metapopulation dynamics, coexistence, community structure, macro-ecological scales, and so forth. Within such systems, the organisms themselves are considered to adjust locally through optimizing adaptive processes driven by fitness benefits that are selected relative to the lesser performances of others. In macroecology, processes that operate uniformly at even greater scales are sought. Verification of this perspective appears to be the dominant activity in current evolutionary ecology and is notably evident in investigations of local adaptation and ecological speciation (Walter 1999, 2003).