Link to the University of Pittsburgh Homepage
Link to the University Library System Homepage Link to the Contact Us Form

Function in Ecology: Concepts, Values, and Management

Morrow, Katherine H. (2022) Function in Ecology: Concepts, Values, and Management. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

Download (1MB) | Preview


This dissertation develops accounts of functional explanations in ecosystem ecology. My arguments emphasize the following two themes: (1) Ecological change, whether “natural” or anthropogenic, is the status quo. Both philosophical and management work pertaining to ecosystems should reflect the ways in which ecosystems are expected to continue changing. (2) Human value judgments play important roles in ecological research, concepts, and explanations. As such, ecology presents many important and understudied cases for considering philosophical issues related to values in science and value-laden concepts.

I develop accounts of functional concepts at multiple scales. First, I develop a new causal-role theory of ecological role functions, which are the functions of species within ecosystems. Next, I characterize the concept of ecosystem functioning. I argue that conclusions within the biodiversity-ecosystem functioning research program are value laden because ecosystem functioning is a positive evaluative concept much like wellbeing. Then, I develop a constructivist account of ecosystem health. I argue that specific anthropocentric values, in conjunction with natural properties of ecosystems, inform contemporary judgments about the health of ecosystems. Finally, I consider the values of biodiversity at the ecosystem and global scales. I argue that global biodiversity may not have instrumental value to humans due to the lack of a causal connection between global-scale species richness and the functions of ecosystems. In view of this, I survey alternative types of value which might be attributed to global biodiversity.


Social Networking:
Share |


Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Morrow, Katherine H.khm17@pitt.edukhm170000-0002-4126-8121
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee CoChairAllen,
Committee CoChairDietrich,
Committee MemberJustus,
Committee MemberMitchell,
Date: 6 June 2022
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 4 April 2022
Approval Date: 6 June 2022
Submission Date: 8 March 2022
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 216
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > History and Philosophy of Science
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: philosophy of ecology, environmental ethics, anthropocentrism, biodiversity-ecosystem functioning, BEF, conservation, constructivism, ecosystem services, external validity, function, health, instrumental value, intrinsic value, non-epistemic values in science, regime shift, resilience, thick concepts
Date Deposited: 06 Jun 2022 15:56
Last Modified: 06 Jun 2022 15:56


Monthly Views for the past 3 years

Plum Analytics

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item