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ecospaceÖkoraum (ger.)

  • A potential ecological niche or niches; (also) notional space consisting of such niches, habitats, or ecological roles that may be filled through the adaptation, evolutionary diversification, or migration of existing species. (OED 2008)

    [Through these means, he [scil. man] has developed a capacity to occupy, not merely a niche, but an eco-space, with considerable exchanges possible between desired trophic level and population density.

    Shimkin, D.B. (1964). Human utilization of the natural environment. In: Committee on Human Ecology of the University of Illinois (ed.). Introduction to Human Ecology, 59-62 (Lecture 21): 62.]


    For any organism there is some more or less small volume (actually a hypervolume) within the lattice corresponding to the range of environmental conditions under which it may live. This functional bypervolume will be called the ecospace of that organism […]. Each population also has its own ecospace, which is the hypervolume of its niche within the lattice. Indeed, the ecological units at all levels have ecospaces. A community ecospace is the multi-dimensional model of its ecosystem, and a provincial ecospace is the model of the provincial system. Although the highest functional level standing above that of the provincial system is the level of the biosphere, the system of the shallow marine realm is being used here in its place as a matter of simplicity, and this realm has its own ecospace. The total ecospace that an organism or other ecological unit may utilize if it is physically available may be called the prospective ecospace, while the portion of the ecospace that actually overlaps with realized biospace may be called the realized ecospace.

    Valentine, J.W. (1969). Patterns of taxonomic and ecological structure of the shelf benthos during Phanerozoic time. Palaeontology 12, 684-709: 686-7.


    [all three species in New England can share the same macro-ecospace.

    Frey, D.G. (1969). Further notes on Alona bicolor Frey, 1965 (Cladocera, Chydoridae), with a description of the male. Transactions of the American Microscopical Society 88, 380-386: 380.]


    Expansion and contraction of ecospace are linked to such episodes.

    McKenna, M.C. (1972). Possible biological consequences of plate tectonics. BioScience 22, 519-525: 521.


    most successful clades […] are […] likely to be the progeny of parental species that managed to take advantage of rare opportunities occasionally provided when the earth’s general equilibria are broken: unfilled ecospace around newly-risen land, or a relatively empty world decimated by faunal catastrophe. The increasers may win simply by being first, not by being better in some Newtonian, mechanical sense; having been first, they may be able to hold on almost indefinitely, unless decimated themselves by a major diversity-independent episode of extinction.

    Gould, S.J. & Eldredge, N. (1977). Punctuated equilibria: the tempo and mode of evolution reconsidered. Paleobiology 3, 115-151: 144.


    Two possibilities suggest themselves as potential influences on increase in within-habitat species richness: systematic expansion of ecospace through the development of new or increased resource supplies, and possible inherent lag time in species diversification. Increased resource supplies can increase the potential for resource subdivision, niche partitioning and an increase in species richness within a habitat.

    Bambach, R.K. (1977). Species richness in marine benthic habitats through the Phanerozoic. Paleobiology 3, 152-167: 162.


    it may be that diversification is simply a reflection of the availability of an almost empty ecospace with low levels of competition permitting the evolution of a wide variety of bodyplans.

    Conway Morris, S. (1985). The middle Cambrian metazoan Wiwaxia Corrugata (Matthew) from the Burgess Shale and Ogygopsis Shale, British Columbia, Canada. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Ser. B 307, 507-582: 570.


    All possible combinations of six tiering positions in relation to the substratum⁄water interface, six motility levels and six feeding strategies define a complete theoretical ecospace of 216 potential modes of life for marine animals. The number of modes of life actually utilized specifies realized ecospace.

    Bambach, R.K., Bush, A.M. & Erwin, D.H. (2007). Autecology and the filling of ecospace: key metazoan radiations. Palaeontology 50, 1-22: 1.