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THE RESPONSE OF HIERARCHIALLY STRUCTURED ECOSYSTEMS TO LONG-TERM CLIMATIC CHANGE: A CASE 152 STUDY USING TROPICAL PEAT SWAMPS OF PENNSYLVANIAN AGE ecological status quo, the role of the existing biotic structure is reduced. This may be a threshold response (i.e., the biotic fabric exists or it does not). If the fabric is severely disrupted, as evidently happened during the early Stephanian within peat swamps, the selective filter becomes coarse meshed as numerous opportunities are created for the survival of divergent forms. It is during such times that the role of interspecific competition would be expected to be most powerful as an active agent of selection. This scenario integrates environmental change with the evolving lineages. It is in effect the model presented by Valentine (1980) for the origin of putative higher taxa. Higher taxa may certainly have a greater chance of survival during times of ecosystem disruption than during periods of long-term stability; however, the model applies to speciation in general. The patterns of the fossil record may require little more than an understanding that ecosystems have not been in constant flux for the past 600 m.y. Recognition that opportunities for survival of divergent phenotypes have varied enormously through time may help reconcile mechanisms based on studies of living organisms with patterns in the fossil record. REFERENCES Bertram, U. (1989). Untersuchungun an coal balls aus dem Namur A von Ostrau Unter Spezieller Berucksichtigung der Gattungen Heterangium, Lyginopteris, und Microspermopteris, Palaeontographica 214B, 125-244. Calder, J. (1993). 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