Evo–Devo–Eco and Ecological Stem Species: Potential Repair Systems in the Planetary Biosphere Crisis

  • Ulrich LüttgeEmail author
  • Mario L. Garbin
  • Fabio R. Scarano
Part of the Progress in Botany book series (BOTANY, volume 74)


We draw on well-established domains of the biology of evolution (EVO), development (DEVO), and ecology (ECO), particularly of plants, to develop the new concept of “stem species” based on “EVO–DEVO–ECO.” In EVO the evolutionary theory of punctuated equilibrium of niles eldredge and stephen jay gould is thought provoking. These authors make use of spandrels, exaptations, and functional shifts to explain interruptions of stasis by punctuated speciation. In DEVO it is epigenetics where environment-induced chromatin methylations constitute heritable memories of experienced stress. In addition, spandrels, exaptations, and functional shifts shape the phenotypes emerging from reading the genome information. By feedback of development through the evolutionary selection of phenotypes, EVO–DEVO is more than the evolution of development. In ECO the thoughts dwell on the ecological impacts on development of phenotypes as well as the environmental pressure causing selection in evolution. EVO, DEVO, and ECO are nodes of a network with strong interactions between them. The “stem species” idea is issued by comparison with stem cells. In analogy to stem cells in organisms, “stem species” in ecosystems have multipotency and they fulfill repair functions in deteriorating and destroyed habitats. “Stem species” differ from invaders, nurse species, and pioneer species. This is exemplified. “Stem species” may strengthen optimism regarding self-repair and sustainability of the biosphere on Earth in a current time of extraordinarily irritating global changes.


Stem Cell Pioneer Species Soil Crust Ecosystem Engineer Mammalian Stem Cell 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank Manfred Kluge, Darmstadt, and an anonymous reviewer for very valuable comments on the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ulrich Lüttge
    • 1
    Email author
  • Mario L. Garbin
    • 2
  • Fabio R. Scarano
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of BiologyTechnical University of DarmstadtDarmstadtGermany
  2. 2.Conservation InternationalRio de JaneiroBrazil
  3. 3.Departamento de EcologiaUniversidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, CCS, IBRio de JaneiroBrazil

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