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What are ecological mechanisms? Suggestions for a fine-grained description of causal mechanisms in invasion ecology

Heger, Tina (2022) What are ecological mechanisms? Suggestions for a fine-grained description of causal mechanisms in invasion ecology. [Preprint]

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Abstract

Invasion ecology addresses the spread of species outside of their native ranges. A central aim of this field is to find mechanistic explanations for why species are able to establish and spread in an area in which they did not evolve. Usually it remains unclear, however, what exactly is meant by ‘mechanistic explanation’ or ‘mechanism’. The paper argues that the field can benefit from the philosophical discussion of what a mechanism is. Based on conceptions of mechanisms as processes in concrete systems, causal mechanisms can be defined as one type of mechanism, representing recurring networks of causal relationships. With the example of a well-known hypothesized mechanism in invasion ecology, namely enemy release, the paper demonstrates how such causal mechanisms can be depicted as causal network diagrams. This approach could facilitate the development of step-by-step explanations, enhance clear argumentation and allow for more precise linkage of empirical tests to theory. Challenges to assessing the empirical relevance of hypothesized mechanisms are discussed, and suggestions are made concerning how the proposed approach could help in overcoming some of them.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Heger, Tina0000-0002-5522-5632
Keywords: Invasion ecology, mechanistic explanation, hierarchy-of-hypotheses approach, causal network graphs, multicausality, connecting empiricism and theory
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology > Ecology/Conservation
General Issues > Causation
General Issues > Evidence
General Issues > Explanation
General Issues > Models and Idealization
General Issues > Theory/Observation
Depositing User: Dr. Tina Heger
Date Deposited: 19 Feb 2022 00:36
Last Modified: 19 Feb 2022 00:36
Item ID: 20231
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology > Ecology/Conservation
General Issues > Causation
General Issues > Evidence
General Issues > Explanation
General Issues > Models and Idealization
General Issues > Theory/Observation
Date: 18 February 2022
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/20231

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