Volume 47, Issue 1, Spring 2019
The Philosophy of Ecology
Ecological Theory and the Superfluous Niche
Perhaps no concept has been thought more important to ecological theorizing than the niche. Without it, technically sophisticated and well-regarded accounts of character displacement, ecological equivalence, limiting similarity, and others would seemingly never have been developed. The niche is also widely considered the centerpiece of the best candidate for a distinctively ecological law, the competitive exclusion principle. But the incongruous array and imprecise character of proposed definitions of the concept square poorly with its apparent scientific centrality. I argue this definitional diversity and imprecision reflects a problematic conceptual indeterminacy that challenges its putative indispensability in ecology.