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Laws, Theories, and Patterns in Ecology

Laws, Theories, and Patterns in Ecology

Walter K. Dodds
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: 1
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Laws, Theories, and Patterns in Ecology
    Book Description:

    Physics and chemistry are distinguished from biology by the way generalizations are codified into theories tested by observation and experimentation. Some theories have been sufficiently tested to qualify as laws. In ecology, generalizations worthy of being called theories are less common because observations and experimentation are difficult and exceptions are more common. In this book, Walter K. Dodds enumerates generalizations in ecology. Introductory material describes how the practice of science in general, and ecology specifically, yields theories and laws. Dodds also discusses why such ideas are only useful if they have predictive ability, and delineates the scope of these generalizations and the constraints that limit their application. The result is a short book that delves deeply into important ecological ideas and how they predict and provide understanding.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94454-1
    Subjects: Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)

    All species need to predict features of their environment or they will not survive. Capacity for prediction could be a basic genetic program as a fixed response to environmental cues or prediction could be the capacity to learn from the environment. Successful forecasting of ecological properties is the hallmark of evolutionary success; matching environmental and ecological context to resource needs for reproduction and survival is a requirement. Prediction is innate, and ecological prediction was required for hominid survival throughout most of our history. Humans (Homo sapiens) have attained the ability to predict the environment better than any other species (at...

  6. CHAPTER 1 Laws
    (pp. 21-66)

    In this chapter, laws are organized roughly so that those pertaining to subsequent laws are presented first. The first approach taken is deductive, but an inductive approach is unavoidable for some of the laws. Laws are also grouped generally by topic and level of biological organization. Some of the laws lead to specific equations that can be used to describe relationships; others are simple concepts not profitably captured in equations. Some may seem self-evident (axiomatic), but explicit definition at the beginning is crucial to explaining subsequent laws and theories that depend on them. Some are null model laws; they state...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Theories
    (pp. 67-144)

    A theory is a plausible or scientifically acceptable general principle or body of principles offered to explain phenomena. The topic of theories in ecology, their relationship to modern philosophy of science, and their utility are explored elegantly by Pickett et al. (1994), and only a few issues covered in that treatment are discussed here. In general, Pickett et al. (2007, p. 63) define a theory as “a system of conceptual constructs that organizes and explains the observable phenomena in a stated domain of interest.” The theory then allows for causal explanation of phenomena in the domain of interest. Theory, as...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Patterns, Questions, and Predictions
    (pp. 145-192)

    Some questions have been driving the field of ecology since it began, and numerous concepts or “hot topics” in ecology have been explored in passing over the decades. Predictive ecological science related to popular areas of ecological research or areas of ecology that have been mostly ignored but seem important to me are considered here. Some questions presented below have properties leading to patterns that can be used for prediction because an ecologist should be aware of the potential for the patterns to hold in a particular habitat. But, it is not wise to assume the patterns described in this...

    (pp. 193-222)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 223-232)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 233-233)