What was the best year for ecology?

The best year for movies was 1999.* The best year for music was 1967.** But what was the best year for ecology?

Some opening bids:

  • 1859, the publication year of Darwin’s Origin of Species. Much of ecology can’t be understood unless you know about evolution. And the biogeography in the Origin is pretty much on the money.
  • 1972 saw the publication of MacArthur’s Geographical Ecology, synthesizing much of his massively influential work. 1972 also was the year Bob May published his famous result on stability and complexity in model ecosystems.
  • 1976. May’s Nature paper on chaos in the discrete time logistic equation. Charnov’s marginal value theorem of optimal foraging. Stearn’s review of life history theory, arguably the most influential review paper in ecological history.
  • 1977. Holt 1977 (apparent competition). Grubb 1977 (regeneration niche). Grime 1977 (CSR hypothesis). Brown & Kodric-Brown 1977 (rescue effect). Connell & Slayter 1977 (alternative modes of succession).

This should be a fun comment thread!

*Or 1939. Or 1977. Or 1984. Or 1994.

**Seriously, it was 1967.***

***No, YOU’RE wrong. It was 1967, dammit!****

****[puts fingers in ears, sings “Are You Experienced?” at the top of his lungs]

19 thoughts on “What was the best year for ecology?

  1. 1966
    These data are from webofscience : Paine’s classic, Macarthur& pianka, and Emlen on foraging, GC Willaims, dan Cohen, and WD hamilton on life history evolution. Pianka on latitudinal gradients in species diversity. Perhaps these are mostly not ecological enough, and too evolutionary?

    FOOD WEB COMPLEXITY AND SPECIES DIVERSITY
    By: PAINE, RT
    AMERICAN NATURALIST Volume: ‏ 100 Issue: ‏ 910 Pages: ‏ 65-+ Published: ‏ 1966
    Context Sensitive Links
    Times Cited: 3,498

    ON OPTIMAL USE OF A PATCHY ENVIRONMENT
    By: MACARTHUR, RH; PIANKA, ER
    AMERICAN NATURALIST Volume: ‏ 100 Issue: ‏ 916 Pages: ‏ 603-+ Published: ‏ 1966
    Context Sensitive Links
    Times Cited: 2,706
    (from All Databases)

    NATURAL SELECTION COSTS OF REPRODUCTION AND A REFINEMENT OF LACKS PRINCIPLE
    By: WILLIAMS, GC
    AMERICAN NATURALIST Volume: ‏ 100 Issue: ‏ 916 Pages: ‏ 687-+ Published: ‏ 1966
    Context Sensitive Links
    Times Cited: 2,465

    MOULDING OF SENESCENCE BY NATURAL SELECTION
    By: HAMILTON, WD
    JOURNAL OF THEORETICAL BIOLOGY Volume: ‏ 12 Issue: ‏ 1 Pages: ‏ 12-+ Published: ‏ 1966
    Context Sensitive Links
    Times Cited: 1,331

    LATITUDINAL GRADIENTS IN SPECIES DIVERSITY – A REVIEW OF CONCEPTS
    By: PIANKA, ER
    AMERICAN NATURALIST Volume: ‏ 100 Issue: ‏ 910 Pages: ‏ 33-& Published: ‏ 1966
    Context Sensitive Links
    Times Cited: 1,189

    OPTIMIZING REPRODUCTION IN A RANDOMLY VARYING ENVIRONMENT
    By: COHEN, D
    JOURNAL OF THEORETICAL BIOLOGY Volume: ‏ 12 Issue: ‏ 1 Pages: ‏ 119-& Published: ‏ 1966
    Context Sensitive Links
    Times Cited: 979

    ROLE OF TIME AND ENERGY IN FOOD PREFERENCE
    By: EMLEN, JM
    AMERICAN NATURALIST Volume: ‏ 100 Issue: ‏ 916 Pages: ‏ 611-+ Published: ‏ 1966
    Context Sensitive Links
    Times Cited: 906

      • If you expand the allowed interval to any continuous 2 year period, the yrs 76-77 are pretty strong, with all that you mention plus Stearns ARES review of life histories and Pyke,Pulliam and Charnov’s review of optimal foraging. and as Westoby remarks, we get John Harpers great book.
        Of course the yrs 66-67 get Hamilton’s great sex ratio paper and Macarthur -Wilson ISLAND BIOGEOGRAPHY book, in addition to the above papers.

  2. Could you ask the question semi-objectively and quantitatively? Corrected for increasing total citations over time, which year had the most *ecology* papers >X standard deviations from the mean? Citations are of course just one very crude and highly imperfect metric, but it might be fun to know the answer anyway…

      • I’m on a version of it – probably milk it for a full post, but I didn’t want anybody else to waste time doing it.

      • Hmm – though the ISI categories pre-1990 are pretty wonky. Searching for TOPIC=Ecology brings up every paper asigned to Ecology (but papers then were only allowed one topic so no papers in zoology, botnay, or multidisciplinary) AND papers with the word Ecology in the title (including things like the Ecology of the Medical System). Somebody would have to get more sophisticated than I am willing to get on pre-1990 years to really rigorously settle this.

  3. sort of in support of 1966 J.L. Harper (1967) A Darwinian Approach to Plant Ecology. Journal of Ecology 55 (2): 247-270. — but the actual presidential address would have been given in 1966

    you could also argue for Harper’s book Plant Population Biology in support of 1977, but my feeling is the “Darwinian Approach” paper was more seminal — it had already catalysed a lot of work in several countries by early 70s

    another indicator that the 1960s were when modern ecology took shape is that first editions of both Krebs and Ricklefs textbooks were 1972-3

  4. Dear Friends !
    I think brilliant era of ecology there are 1985 – 1988.
    Please look Absolutely incredible books that change opinions on Ecology of scientists and other people in all parts of the world.
    Pianka, Eric R. (1985 – 1986), Evolutionary Ecology (translated on other language)
    Michael Begon, Colin R. Townsend and John L. Harper. 1986, Ecology: From Individuals to Ecosystems
    Krebs, C.J. 1985. Ecology: The Experimental Analysis of Distribution and Abundance. Third Edition. Harper and Row, New York. 800 pp.
    1986. Basic Ecology Odum
    Community and Evolutionary Ecology of North American Freshwater Fishes, (Matthews and Heins, 1987)
    Magurran, Anne E. (1988). Ecological Diversity and Its Measurement. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

    • Really interesting point! I think if you judge by books (and I completely agree with your list and would add Case & Diamond’s Community Ecology 1986) it lags a few years behind the papers. So you probably get a different time period if you focus on first publication or on synthesis and consolidation.

      • I can add to my list Yet
        McIntosh, Robert P. 1985. The Background of Ecology: Concept and Theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
        I think that this era was absolutely Golden by papers and books !
        But start of this I think need prolonged and brilliant start when Ecology has become a central part of the world of politics, back in 1971, UNESCO launched a research program called “Man and the Biosphere”, with the aim of expanding knowledge about the relationship between man and nature. Several years later, she defined the concept of a biosphere reserve and global ecology.

      • Golden era of Ecology can start from Biosphere of Russian scientist:
        Vladimir Vernadsky
        The Biosphere, first published in Russian in 1926. English translations:
        Oracle, AZ, Synergetic Press, 1986, ISBN 0-907791-11-5, 86 pp.
        tr. David B. Langmuir, ed. Mark A. S. McMenamin, New York, Copernicus, 1997, ISBN 0-387-98268-X, 192 pp.
        Essays on Geochemistry & the Biosphere, tr. Olga Barash, Santa Fe, NM, Synergetic Press, ISBN 0-907791-36-0, 2006
        Please read !
        Oleg

  5. I don’t actually think 1974 was the best year – certainly not based on number of influential papers. But..

    Biological populations with nonoverlapping generations: stable points, stable cycles, and chaos
    RM May
    Science 186 (4164), 645-647

    This paper probably had as large an influence on the direction of ecology over the next several decades as any single ecology paper published. And…

    Eutrophication and Recovery in Experimental Lakes: Implications for Lake
    Management
    D. W. Schindler
    Science 184: 897-899

    The first ‘big’ publication out of the Experimental Lakes Area is almost certainly the single ecology paper that has had the greatest impact on people’s everyday lives. The iconic photo from that paper eventually led to large scale changes in how we regulate and deal with runoff and nutrient inputs.

    • “This paper probably had as large an influence on the direction of ecology over the next several decades as any single ecology paper published.”

      Hmm, isn’t it the May 1976 chaos paper that had the big influence?

      Quibbling aside, very interesting argument for 1974.

  6. One last thing…

    Holling, C. S. Resilience and stability of ecological systems. Annu. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 4, 1–23 (1973)

    was published in November 1973. So, if we allow it to creep over into 1974…

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