Friday, September 12, 2008

This Week's Citation Classic

This week's citation classic is:

Dayton, PK (1971). Competition, Disturbance, and Community Organization: The Provision and Subsequent Utilization of Space in a Rocky Intertidal Community Ecological Monographs, 41 (4), 351-389

Paul Dayton once wrote, "Ecology often seems dominated by theoretical bandwagons driven by charismatic mathematicians; lost to many is the realization that good ecology rests on a foundation of solid natural history and progresses by use of proper scientific methods."

True to his words, Dayton gets out there in the middle of it. The present paper was only possible thru untold hours in the field. Lest anyone get the wrong impressions, field research is difficult. Your ability to work is dictated by the life history of the organisms you study and the elements, rain, snow, blazing sun and biting cold. All your tools need to be carried with you, and the beasties you study are famously uncooperative, often favoring niches far from prying eyes.

Despite these challenges, Dayton presents a wonderful monograph about competition for space among sessile intertidal organisms: barnacles, limpets, algae, and anemones. Most ecological research at the time discounted the effects of the physical environment on competition between species, but Dayton was able to show that physical disturbances e.g. waves, driftwood logs, exposure to the air modulates interspecific competition.

"The major conclusion of the present study is that although there are clear competitive dominants, this intertidal community is characterized by continuous physical and biological disturbance including the effects of carnivores and herbivores, an abundance of the potentially limiting spatial resource, and a large number of species which utilize this same resource."

Dayton has had a fabulous career since finishing the dissertation he presents here. He is on the faculty of the Scripps Institition of Oceanography and has recieved the Margalef Prize and the E. O. Wilson Naturalists Award.

And he clearly LOVES his work!

Photo: Dr. Paul Dayton deploying a cage experiment on the seafloor in McMurdo Sound in 1967. Notice his diving gear - he is using a double hose regulator (in use in the USAP until 1988) and a WETSUIT, in water that is -1.8° C (29° F)!

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