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Population ecology theory: implications for sustainability

Manjula S. Salimath (Department of Management, College of Business, University of North Texas, Denton, Texas, USA)
Raymond Jones III (Department of Management, College of Business, University of North Texas, Denton, Texas, USA)

Management Decision

ISSN: 0025-1747

Article publication date: 28 June 2011




The paper has dual objectives. First, the paper aims to consolidate prior research in the area of population ecology theory and provide a review and critique of this influential organizational theory. The review is both broad and extensive, covering all major theoretical streams in population ecology. Second, the paper aims to highlight a new and hitherto unexplored area for future research, which lies at the intersection of population ecology and sustainability.


The extensive and broad review included all salient published scholarly work on the topic of population ecology from 1996‐2010. Findings are reported in nine separate tables, classified by primary research focus, chronology, author, etc. Additionally, a brief summary of prior research on sustainability is provided.


Population ecology continues as a valuable and influential perspective for organizational scholars. In comparison, sustainability is a relatively new entrant in the organizational literature, since 2008. Several areas of convergence between population ecology and sustainability exist (construct dimensions, levels of analysis and outcomes). An important gap in the literature allows future research agendas to be pursued.

Practical implications

The major, and most widespread, global implication is that unsustainable organizational practices and strategies may be selected by ecological pressures, and that such organizations may face a decline in population density, or mortality. Sustainable practices may allow for greater firm density and a rise in survival rates for organizational populations. Future research directions investigating population ecology links to sustainability are provided.


This is the first instance where the potential contribution of population ecology to sustainability in organizations is provided.



Salimath, M.S. and Jones, R. (2011), "Population ecology theory: implications for sustainability", Management Decision, Vol. 49 No. 6, pp. 874-910.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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