A paper in Ecology Letters describes a “unification” of the six unified theories of ecology (doi: 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2010.01449.x). I didn’t know we had six “unified” theories to start with. (How can there be more than one “unified” theory? But that’s beside the point.)

The paper claims that all six of our “unified” theories are based on the same three rules:

(1) individuals of the same species tend to be found clumped together in space;

(2) most places have a few common species and lots of rare species;

and (3) the distributions of individuals of different species are independent.

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. That’s it? That’s all we’ve got? This is what our “unified” theories of biodiversity are all about? If these are the basis of all of these “unified” theories, I really have to wonder of what use the predictions of these “unified” theories are.

We are always fascinated by pattern in nature, and we think that every pattern must be explained. However, if this is it, are these patterns really worth explaining?