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Frederic Edward Clements (September 16, 1874 – July 26, 1945) was an American plant ecologist and pioneer in the study of
plant ecology Plant ecology is a subdiscipline of ecology Ecology (from el, οἶκος, "house" and el, -λογία, label=none, "study of") is the study of the relationships between living organisms, including humans, and their physical environmen ...
and
vegetation Vegetation is an assemblage of plant Plants are predominantly photosynthetic Photosynthesis is a process used by plants and other organisms to Energy transformation, convert light energy into chemical energy that, through cellular re ...

vegetation
succession.


Biography

Born in
Lincoln, Nebraska Lincoln is the capital city of the U.S. state In the United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country Contiguous United States, primarily located in North ...

Lincoln, Nebraska
, he studied
botany Botany, also called , plant biology or phytology, is the science of plant life and a branch of biology. A botanist, plant scientist or phytologist is a scientist who specialises in this field. The term "botany" comes from the Ancient Greek wo ...

botany
at the
University of Nebraska A university ( la, universitas, 'a whole') is an educational institution, institution of higher education, higher (or Tertiary education, tertiary) education and research which awards academic degrees in various Discipline (academia), academic d ...
, graduating in 1894 and obtaining a
doctorate A doctorate (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republ ...

doctorate
in 1898. One of his teachers was botanist
Charles Bessey Charles Edwin Bessey (21 May 1845 – 25 February 1915) was an United States, American botany, botanist. Biography He was born at Milton Township, Wayne County, Ohio, Milton, Wayne County, Ohio. He graduated in 1869 at the Michigan State Univers ...
, who inspired Clements to research topics such as microscopy, plant physiology, and laboratory experimentation. He was also classmate of
Willa Cather Willa Sibert Cather (; born Wilella Sibert Cather; December 7, 1873 – April 24, 1947) was an American writer known for her novels of life on the Great Plains The Great Plains (french: Grandes Plaines), sometimes simply "the Plains", is a ...
and
Roscoe Pound Nathan Roscoe Pound (October 27, 1870 – June 30, 1964) was an American legal scholar and educator. He served as Dean of the University of Nebraska College of Law The University of Nebraska College of Law is one of the professional graduate scho ...
. While at the University of Nebraska, he met Edith Gertrude Schwartz (1874–1971), also a botanist and ecologist, and they were married in 1899. In 1905 he was appointed full professor at the University of Nebraska, but left in 1907 to head the botany department at the
University of Minnesota The University of Minnesota, Twin Cities (the U of M or Minnesota) is a public In public relations Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing and disseminating information from an individual or an organization An organ ...

University of Minnesota
in
Minneapolis Minneapolis () is a city in the U.S. state of Minnesota. With a population of 429,954 as of 2020 United States census, 2020, it is the most populous city in the state and the 46th most populous in the nation. The county seat of Hennepin County, ...

Minneapolis
. From 1917 to 1941 he was employed as an ecologist at the
Carnegie Institution of Washington The Carnegie Institution of Washington (the organization's legal name), known also for public purposes as the Carnegie Institution for Science (CIS), is an organization in the United States established to fund and perform scientific research ...
in
Washington, D.C. ) , image_skyline = , image_caption = Clockwise from top left: the Washington Monument The Washington Monument is an obelisk within the National Mall The National Mall is a Landscape architecture, landscape ...
, where he was able to carry out dedicated ecological research. While employed at
Carnegie Institution of Washington The Carnegie Institution of Washington (the organization's legal name), known also for public purposes as the Carnegie Institution for Science (CIS), is an organization in the United States established to fund and perform scientific research ...
, Clements faced criticism for his experiments conducted with the purpose of creating new plant species. Due to these criticisms and as well as personal conflicts with his co workers, in the 1920s the title of director of research in experimental taxonomy was given to
Harvey Monroe Hall Harvey Monroe Hall (March 29, 1874 – March 11, 1932) was an American botanist particularly noted for his Taxonomy (biology), taxonomic work in the western United States. Hall was born in Lee County, Illinois, on March 29, 1874, and raised near Ri ...
. During winter he worked at research stations in
Tucson, Arizona Tucson (; es, Tucsón; O'odham The O'odham peoples, including the Tohono O'odham, the Pima Pima or PIMA may refer to: Places * Pima, Arizona, a town in Graham County * Pima County, Arizona * Pima Canyon, in the Santa Catalina Mountains * Pim ...
and
Santa Barbara, California Santa Barbara ( es, Santa Bárbara, meaning "Saint Barbara Saint Barbara ( el, Ἁγία Βαρβάρα; cop, Ϯⲁⲅⲓⲁ Ⲃⲁⲣⲃⲁⲣⲁ; ), known in the Eastern Orthodox Church The Eastern Orthodox Church, also called t ...
, while in the summer he performed
fieldwork Field research, field studies, or fieldwork is the collection Collection or Collections may refer to: * Cash collection, the function of an accounts receivable department * Collection agency, agency to collect cash * Collections managemen ...
at the Carnegie Institution's Alpine Laboratory, a research station in Angel Canyon on the slopes of
Pikes Peak Pikes Peak is the List of mountain ranges of Colorado#Mountain ranges, highest summit of the southern Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, in North America. The Ultra-prominent peak, ultra-prominent fourteener is located in Pike National Forest ...

Pikes Peak
, Colorado. During this time he worked alongside staff of the U.S. Soil Conservation Service. In addition to his field investigations, he carried out experimental work in the laboratory and greenhouse, both at the Pikes Peak station and at Santa Barbara.


Theory of vegetation change to climax community

From his observations of the vegetation of Nebraska and the western United States, Clements developed one of the most influential theories of vegetation development. Vegetation composition does not represent a permanent condition but gradually changes with time. Clements suggested that the development of vegetation can be understood as a unidirectional sequence of stages resembling the development of an individual organism. After a complete or partial disturbance, vegetation grows back (under ideal conditions) towards a stable " climax state", which describes the vegetation best suited to the local conditions. Though any actual instance of vegetation might follow the ideal sequence towards stability, it can be interpreted in relation to that sequence, as a deviation from it due to non-ideal conditions. In these studies, he and R. Pound developed the widely-used method of sampling using
quadrat A quadrat is a frame, traditionally square, used in ecology Ecology (from el, οἶκος, "house" and el, -λογία, label=none, "study of") is the study of the relationships between living organisms, including humans, and their physi ...

quadrat
s around 1898. Clements's
climax Climax may refer to: Language arts * Climax (narrative) The climax (from the Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, ...
theory of vegetation dominated plant ecology during the first decades of the twentieth century, though it was criticized significantly by ecologists
Henry Gleason Henry Allan Gleason (1882–1975) was an American ecologist Ecology (from el, οἶκος, "house" and el, -λογία, label=none, "study of") is the study of the relationships between living organisms, including humans, and their physic ...
and
Arthur Tansley Sir Arthur George Tansley FLSFLS may refer to: Places * Flinders Island Airport, in Tasmania, Australia * Fordham Law School in New York City * Free Library of Springfield Township in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania, United States * Frontline States, a ...
early on, and by Robert Whittaker mid-century, and largely fell out of favor. However, significant Clementsian trends in ecology re-emerged towards the end of the twentieth century.


Community-unit view of vegetation types or plant communities

In his 1916 publication, ''Plant Succession'', and his 1920 ''Plant Indicators'', Clements metaphorically equated units of vegetation, (now called
vegetation types Vegetation classification is the process of classifying and mapping the vegetation over an area of the earth's surface. Vegetation classification is often performed by state based agencies as part of land use, resource and environmental management. ...
or
plant communities A plant community is a collection or Association (ecology), association of plant species within a designated geographical unit, which forms a relatively uniform patch, distinguishable from neighboring patches of different vegetation types. The comp ...
) with individual organisms. He observed that some groups of species, which he called "formations", were repeatedly
associatedAssociated may refer to: *Associated, former name of Avon, Contra Costa County, California *Associated Hebrew Schools of Toronto, a school in Canada *Associated Newspapers, former name of DMG Media, a British publishing company See also

*Associ ...
together. He is frequently said to have believed that some species were dependent on the group, and the group on that species in an obligatory relationship. However, this interpretation has been challenged by the argument that Clements did not assume mutual dependence as an organizing principle of formations or plant communities. Clements observed little overlap in kinds of species from type to type, with many species confined to just a single type. Some plants were widespread over vegetation types, but the areas of geographical overlap ( ecotones) was narrow. His view of a community as a distinct unit was challenged in 1926 by
Henry Gleason Henry Allan Gleason (1882–1975) was an American ecologist Ecology (from el, οἶκος, "house" and el, -λογία, label=none, "study of") is the study of the relationships between living organisms, including humans, and their physic ...
, who viewed vegetation as a continuum, not a unit, with associations being merely coincidental, and that any support by observations or data of clusters of species as predicted by Clements' view was either an artifact of the observer's perception or a result of defective data analysis.


Lamarckism

Clements was an advocate of evolution. Ecologist
Arthur Tansley Sir Arthur George Tansley FLSFLS may refer to: Places * Flinders Island Airport, in Tasmania, Australia * Fordham Law School in New York City * Free Library of Springfield Township in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania, United States * Frontline States, a ...
wrote that because of his support for Lamarckism, Clements "never seemed to give proper weight to the results of modern genetical research." Science historian Ronald C. Tobey has commented that:
lementsbelieved that plants and animals could acquire a wide variety and range of characteristics in their struggle to survive and adapt to their environment, and that these features were heritable. In the 1920s, he conducted experiments to transform plant species native to one ecological zone into a species adapted to another, higher, zone. Clements was quite convinced of the validity of his experiments, but this experimental Lamarckism fell to experimental disproof in the 1930s.
Clements spent much time trying to demonstrate the inheritance of acquired traits in plants. By the late 1930s scientists had provided Darwinian explanations for the results of his transplant experiments.


Honors

In 1903, the flower ''Clementsia rhodantha'' ("Clements' rose flower"), a stonecrop, was named in honor of Frederic Clements.


Writings

Among his works are: * ''The Phytogeography of Nebraska'' (1898
second edition, 1900
*
Research Methods in Ecology
' (1905) *
Plant Physiology and Ecology
' (1907) *
Plant Succession. An Analysis of the Development of Vegetation
' (1916) *
Plant Indicators. The Relation of Plant Communities to Process and Practice
' (1920) *''The Phylogenetic Method in Taxonomy: The North American Species of Artemisia, Chrysothamnus, and Atriplex (1923, with
Harvey Monroe Hall Harvey Monroe Hall (March 29, 1874 – March 11, 1932) was an American botanist particularly noted for his Taxonomy (biology), taxonomic work in the western United States. Hall was born in Lee County, Illinois, on March 29, 1874, and raised near Ri ...
)'' *
Plant Succession and Indicators. A definitive edition of Plant succession and Plant indicators
' (1928, reprinted 1973) * ''Flower Families and Ancestors'' (1928, with Edith Clements) * ''Plant Competition. An Analysis of Community Functions'' (1929, with J.E. Weaver & H.C. Hanson. Washington: Carnegie Institution of Washington * ''The Genera of Fungi''
1931
repr. 1965, with C. L. Shear) * ''Nature and structure of the climax'' (1936). The Journal of Ecology, 24(1), 252–284.


See also

* :Taxa named by Frederic Clements


References


External Links


Edith S. and Frederic E. Clements Papers, 1876-1969
University of Wyoming - American Heritage Center
AHC Digital collection of Edith S. and Frederic E. ClementsClements Papers Document the History of Ecology
AHC blog {{DEFAULTSORT:Clements, Frederic 1874 births 1945 deaths Academics from Nebraska American ecologists Ecological succession Lamarckism People from Lincoln, Nebraska Plant ecologists University of Nebraska–Lincoln alumni