What does a court full of towering collegiate basketball players have in common with a forest full of vertiginous trees?
For legions of basketball fans, the answer may not go beyond height. But for ecologists who study species dynamics, the answer promises to alter our understanding of the success of species. It could also help better guide how conservation is practiced in an era of fast-multiplying extinctions.
In a study published on March 9 in PLoS ONE, a team of four ecologists at F&ES outlined a connection between basketball and ecology that is, at first glance, deceptively simple. They concluded that the pattern of wins and losses by basketball teams is essentially identical to how species flourish or fail in nature.
Straightforward as these similar distribution patterns may seem, the findings bring into question a landmark theory of species dynamics known as the unified neutral theory of biodiversity…