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Is Basic Ecological Research Useful?

Ecological Research

Basic ecological research, also known as pure or fundamental ecological research, helps us understand how living things interact with each other and how they interact with non-living things (1). It also helps us understand where living things are found and how many of them there are (1). There is no real way to accurately predict what ecological knowledge will end up being useful (2). We must fund more basic ecological research (2) to make sure something useful happens in the future.

For example, if no one had documented that syrphid fly larvae eat aphids and that syrphid fly adults are pollinators, then syrphid flies would not have been nominated as potential pollinators and as biological control agents for crops (3). They could help crops thrive. This is just one example among many of how basic ecological research can be useful.

Even if a large part of basic ecological research ends up having no practical use, a small portion of it will (2). We cannot let what we see in front of us today stop us from visualizing the potential usefulness that today's basic ecological research could bring in the future (2).

An endless loop of research based on the same findings is not likely to give us more breakthroughs (2). If we keep relying on what already works, then we cannot improve. Without more breakthroughs, we cannot move forward as a society.

To deal with anything that our universe throws at us in the future, we have to improve our understanding of ecology (2). We must carry out more basic ecological research partly because we cannot predict what will be useful one day. Overall, at least a portion of basic ecological research is practically guaranteed to be useful in the future.


1. Ecology. Definition.

2. Fundamental ecology is fundamental by Franck Courchamp, Jennifer A. Dunne, Yvon Le Maho, Robert M. May, Christophe Thébaud, and Michael E. Hochberg. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, January 2015.

3. Dual ecosystem services of syrphid flies (Diptera: Syrphidae): pollinators and biological control agents by Lucinda Dunn, Manuel Lequerica, Chris R. Reid, and Tanya Latty. Pest Management Science, March 2020.

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