Nutrition, ecology and nutritional ecology: toward an integrated framework


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  • 1The science of nutritional ecology spans a wide range of fields, including ecology, nutrition, behaviour, morphology, physiology, life history and evolutionary biology. But does nutritional ecology have a unique theoretical framework and research program and thus qualify as a field of research in its own right?
  • 2We suggest that the distinctive feature of nutritional ecology is its integrative nature, and that the field would benefit from more attention to formalizing a theoretical and quantitative framework for developing this.
  • 3Such a framework, we propose, should satisfy three minimal requirements: it should be nutritionally explicit, organismally explicit, and ecologically explicit.
  • 4We evaluate against these criteria four existing frameworks (Optimal Foraging Theory, Classical Insect Nutritional Ecology, the Geometric Framework for nutrition, and Ecological Stoichiometry), and conclude that each needs development with respect to at least one criterion.
  • 5We end with an initial attempt at assessing the expansion of our own contribution, the Geometric Framework, to better satisfy the criterion of ecological explicitness.