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The Per Brinck Foundation at the editorial office of the journal Oikos and Wiley/Blackwell Publishing annually awards the Per Brinck Oikos Award in honor of the Swedish ecologist Professor Per Brinck, who has played an instrumental role for the development and recognition of the science of ecology in the Nordic countries, especially as serving as the Editor-in-Chief for Oikos for many years. The Per Brinck Oikos Award recognizes extraordinary and important contributions to the science of ecology. Particular emphasis is given to scientific work aimed at synthesis that has led to novel and original research in unexplored or neglected fields or to bridging gaps between ecological disciplines. Such achievements typically require theoretical innovation and development as well as imaginative observational or experimental work, all of which will be valid grounds for recognition.

The 2012 laureate is Prof. Tim Coulson from Imperial College London for his timely and synthesizing work on linking ecological and evolutionary theory. Instead of treating individual variation in life history as noise, he is embracing individual variation and the mechanisms leading to it. By integrating this variation into models he developed novel theoretical approaches to predict ecological and evolutionary consequences of environmental change on life history, population dynamics and the distribution of quantitative characters and genotypes. In this issue, we publish Tim Coulson’s Per Brinck lecture in which he demonstrates the advantages of integral projection models for the understanding of eco-evolutionary dynamics in systems that cannot be easily replicated in the field (Coulson 2012). By this hands- on paper, Tim advocates the benefits of IPM’s to field biologists who may not have tried to construct models before but might be interested in doing so.

Oikos is publishing novel work that aims at synthesis and generalization; for instance recent empirical (Auld and Charmantier 2011) and theoretical work of (Bårdsen et al. 2011) on the linkage of life history and population dynamics to climate change. As evidenced by the per Brinck paper in this issue, real synthesis can be created by the integration of empirical and theoretical approaches in both marine (Dias and Marshall 2010) and terrestrial environments (Jacquemin et al. 2012, Rodríguez-Pérez and Traveset 2012). Oikos is aiming to stimulate synthesis in specific fields by bringing together papers from different disciplines and systems into more thematic issues that are centred on key contributions (Bonte et al. 2012). In order to improve our understanding of the wealth of mechanisms determining life history variation, we have compiled such an issue consisting of 17 articles documenting novel insights in life history theory and its relevance for predicting phenomena at higher level of biological organization. We especially would like to highlight the contributions on density dependency in larger herbivores (Mobæk et al. 2012) and novel approaches for testing them in nature (Simard et al. 2012). Equally important is the synthesis created by the compilation of contributions demonstrating the interplay between genetics and environment on floral display and subsequent reproduction (von Euler et al. 2012), its further importance for pollinator fitness (Cahenzli and Erhardt 2012). By means of an elegant experiment, Brody and Irwin (2012) show that variability in plant response to herbivory can be attributed by plant interactions with mutualists and enemies. In a final package of papers, we compile work demonstrating amongst others the importance of stage- or age specific life history responses on predation (Sand et al. 2012), phenology (Briscoe et al. 2012) and the importance of overall life history variation on immunology and reservoir competence of infectious diseases (Previtali et al. 2012).