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The Theory of Ecology

Despite claims to the contrary, the science of ecology has a long history of building theories. Many ecological theories are mathematical, computational, or statistical, though, and rarely have attempts been made to organize or extrapolate these models into broader theories. The Theory of Ecology brings together some of the most respected and creative theoretical ecologists of this era to advance a comprehensive, conceptual articulation of ecological theories. The contributors cover a wide range of topics, from ecological niche theory to population dynamic theory to island biogeography theory. Collectively, the chapters ably demonstrate how theory in ecology accounts for observations about the natural world and how models provide predictive understandings. It organizes these models into constitutive domains that highlight the strengths and weaknesses of ecological understanding. This book is a milestone in ecological theory and is certain to motivate future empirical and theoretical work in one of the most exciting and active domains of the life sciences.

416 pages | 30 halftones, 26 line drawings, 20 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2011

Biological Sciences: Ecology

Philosophy of Science


“Scheiner and Willig have assembled a highly valuable compendium of reviews and perspectives on theoretical ecology, including contributions from many of the leaders in the field. This will undoubtedly provide grist for many undergraduate and graduate courses, as well as a stimulus to the whole field of ecology.”

Simon A. Levin, Princeton University

The Theory of Ecology provides a simple framework for interpreting the multifaceted role of theory in the field of ecology. This approach is unique, extremely brave, contentious at times, but definitely intriguing.”

Kevin McCann, University of Guelph

The Theory of Ecology will enliven the debate over what should encompass a general theory of ecology—and whether that is even possible.”

Michael M. Fuller | BioScience

"[T]his volume signifies the maturation of ecological theory exploration. Highly recommended."

F. N. Egerton | Choice

“The editors have put together a well-structured and comprehensible framework for organizing ecological theory. The contributing authors show how the framework, when applied to various theories, can help to clarify what a theory is all about.”

Jonathan Borrelli | Quarterly Review of Biology

Table of Contents

FOREWORD James P. Collins

1. A General Theory of Ecology: Samuel M. Scheiner and Michael R. Willig

2. Theory Makes Ecology Evolve: Jurek Kolasa
3. A General, Unifying Theory of Ecology?: Jay Odenbaugh

4. Foraging Theory: Andrew Sih
5. Ecological Niche Theory: Jonathan Chase
6. Single Species Population Dynamics and Its Theoretical Underpinnings: Alan Hastings
7. Natural Enemy-Victim Interactions: Do We Have a Unified Theory Yet?: Robert D. Holt
8. The Metacommunity Concept and Its Theoretical Underpinnings: Mathew A. Leibold
9. Domain and Propositions of Succession Theory: Steward T. A. Pickett, Scott J. Meiners, and Mary L. Cadenasso
10. The Equilibrium Theory of Island Biogeography: Dov Sax and Steven D. Gaines
11. Theories of Ecosystem Ecology: Ingrid C. Burke and William K. Lauenroth
12. Perspectives on Global Change Theory: Debra P. C. Peters, Brandon T. Bestelmeyer, and Alan K. Knapp
13. A Theory of Ecological Gradients: A Framework for Aligning Data and Models: Gordon A. Fox, Samuel M. Scheiner, and Michael R. Willig
14. Biogeographical Gradient Theory: Robert K. Colwell

15. The State of Theory in Ecology: Michael R. Willig and Samuel M. Scheiner


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