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Is Aldo Leopold's 'Land Community' an Individual?

Millstein, Roberta L. (2015) Is Aldo Leopold's 'Land Community' an Individual? In: UNSPECIFIED.

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Abstract

Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic has often been interpreted as ascribing intrinsic value to what he calls the biotic community. But what is the biotic community? Is it actually an entity at all, which might seem necessary (albeit not sufficient) for it to be intrinsically valuable; more precisely, is it an individual?

Some authors equate Leopold’s “biotic community” with “ecosystem.” It is true that Leopold’s concept of “biotic community” is similar to that of “ecosystem,” since like an ecosystem it includes abiotic components and like an ecosystem it is at least partially characterized in terms of energy flow. However, Leopold also emphasizes that a biotic community is composed of interdependent parts. By underscoring the interactions between species and the way in which changes in some species affect other species, his concept of “biotic community” sounds a bit more like the concept of “community” studied by community ecologists.

So, perhaps Leopold’s “biotic community” blends the concepts of “ecosystem” and “community” in some fashion. But this blending raises a complication, which is illuminated nicely by considering a recent essay by Jay Odenbaugh. Odenbaugh invokes a “causal relations” criterion of individuality; the relevant causal relations for communities are interactions between species whereas the relevant causal relations for ecosystems consist of nutrient and energy cycling. If this is right, what sense can be made, if any, of a blended community-ecosystem? Would it be an individual as well? I explore answers to these questions, considering, e.g., recent attempts to integrate community and ecosystem ecology. My goal is to shed light on what an integrated community-ecosystem might look like and how to make sense of the relationship between a community-individual, an ecosystem-individual, and a community-ecosystem-individual, helping to provide a solid basis for Leopold’s Land Ethic.


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Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (UNSPECIFIED)
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Millstein, Roberta L.rlmillstein@ucdavis.edu
Additional Information: Although this paper is a reasonably accurate reflection of what was presented at Ishkabibble, it is still a draft. Thus, please do not cite or quote without permission
Keywords: Aldo Leopold, land ethic, biotic community, land community, ecosystem, biological individuals, environmental ethics, causal interactions, community ecology, ecosystem ecology
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology
Specific Sciences > Biology > Ecology/Conservation
General Issues > Ethical Issues
General Issues > History of Science Case Studies
Depositing User: Dr. Roberta L. Millstein
Date Deposited: 22 Jul 2015 15:10
Last Modified: 22 Jul 2015 15:10
Item ID: 11586
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology
Specific Sciences > Biology > Ecology/Conservation
General Issues > Ethical Issues
General Issues > History of Science Case Studies
Date: July 2015
URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/11586

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