Postdoctoral Research Fellow University of Melbourne, Queensland, Australia
Abstract: Basic theoretical assumptions create a framework from which to understand a pattern as either expected, problematic or paradoxical. Empirical evidence of facilitation, as well as calls to integrate facilitation into ecological theory, occur at fairly regular intervals. However, facilitation remains conspicuously absent from standard models of population dynamics, many of which are based on classic models of competition. In this work, we argue for not only including facilitation in models of coexistence, but incorporating facilitation as axiomatic in coexistence and diversity maintenance theory. Our argument is structured in three parts. First, we discuss the main roadblocks to incorporating facilitation into theory, which include both defining facilitation and more holistically delineating the conditions under which facilitative interactions occur. Second, we discuss launching points for incorporating facilitation into theory, which include using alternative ways to represent species interactions, building different models, and experimenting with alternative definitions of coexistence. We discuss examples of work where these efforts are ongoing. Third and finally, we conclude with a broader suggestion that the lack of facilitation in classic theory has emerged from a confluence of the framing of ecological problems, computational and quantitative constraints, and perhaps some amount of ideological inertia. We use this argument to invite (or, depending on one’s viewpoint, provoke), work to generate interesting and new ways to frame patterns we observe in the natural world.