© The Ecological Society of America www.frontiersinecology.org
Agrawal Supplementary information
WebPanel 1. Understudied systems and underutilized approaches in ecology
The fundamental questions in ecology apply to all populations, communities, and ecosystems.Traditionally, ecologists have focused on
systems that are accessible in a variety of ways, and on organisms that are easy to reach, view, and identify. We encourage additional
work on the following systems and approaches.
The semi-natural matrix. Ecological studies often investigate pristine systems, but many organisms now persist in the fringes of
habitat around highly disturbed areas (Brauer and Geber 2002). Although much work has been conducted in some of these areas (eg
eastern North American old-fields, much of Europe) and despite a growing interest in urban ecology, the semi-natural matrix is still
mainly unexplored, its ubiquity notwithstanding.
Scavengers and decomposers. These organisms recycle nutrients from all trophic levels, yet we are just beginning to understand
their population and community dynamics (Allison 2006).
Pathogens, with a particular focus on viruses, fungi, and nematodes. Although microbial ecology, with a focus on bacteria, is
an expanding area in both population and community ecology, less attention has been paid to some of the more cryptic groups, such as
viruses, fungi, and nematodes (Arnold et al. 2003; Forde et al. 2004; Cattadori et al. 2005; Ezenwa et al. 2006).The roles of these organ-
isms shift easily among pathogen, commensal, and mutualist, providing opportunities to investigate variation and changes in ecological
roles and the interplay of evolution with ecology.
Chemical ecology. Although the study of chemical mediation of interactions among species has been one of the core areas of ecol-
ogy, technological advances and interest in a broader group of taxa, beyond plants and chewing herbivores, opens additional questions.