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Linné on line arrow Linnaeus and Ecology arrow The ascent of ecology in Sweden arrow Renaissance for field studies

Renaissance for field studies

At the universities field studies had been gradually marginalized in the latter half of the 19th century. Museums placed the emphasis on gathering complete collections, and excursions undertaken were primarily to collect animals and plants, not to observe them in their natural environment. Toward the end of the 19th century the new laboratory-oriented botany and zoology, the new biology, contributed to the decline in influence and prestige for natural history.

At the same time as the new biology attained a dominant position, some attempts were made in academic circles to promote the importance of field studies. Research on plant geography rooted in natural history developed and got a foothold at the universities at the end of the 19th century. The pioneers were Rutger Sernander and Gunnar Andersson. The former further elaborated the Finnish botanist Ragnar Hult’s method for plant analysis, the internationally recognized ‘Hult-Sernander cover scale.’

Even though field studies had little status among academic botanists and zoologists around the turn of the 20th century, new questions arose at this time that made field studies important once again. The problems of natural history were translated into terms of plant and animal geography, or plant and animal biology (biology here in the sense of ecology). This trend can be seen both as a continuation of the more traditional issues of natural history and as an application of the Darwinist points of departure in the German tradition.