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Title: Theoretical Ecology: Principles and Applications. 3e.
Author(s): Robert May and Angela McLean (eds)
Date of Publication: 2007 Publisher: Oxford University Press
Pages:ix + 257 ISBN: 978 0 19 920998 9
Price: Format:Hardcover
Target Readership Undergraduate







Content: 1 – Introduction; 2 - How populations cohere: five rules for cooperation; 3 - Single-species dynamics; 4 - Metapopulations and their spatial dynamics; 5 - Predator-prey interactions; 6 - Plant population dynamics; 7 - Interspecific competition and multispecies coexistence; 8 - Diversity and stability in ecological communities; 9 - Communities: patterns; 10 - Dynamics of infectious diseases; 11 - Fisheries; 12 - A doubly Green Revolution: ecology and food production; 13 - Conservation biology: unsolved problems and their policy implications; 14 - Climate change and conservation biology; 15 - Unanswered questions and why they matter.

Review: This text, now in its third edition, continues to provide a very high level assessment of changes in this field. The editors have gathered a range of key workers in this field and allowed them to reflect on the key aspects of their work and the changes seen. As such, this is a text for the specialist - a considerable degree of knowledge is expected to gain fully from everything noted. however, this is not to decry other uses - it provides an insight into some key ideas and allows non-specialists to follow the arguments. We start with an introduction that describes changes in the field over the course of the three editions. There's also a useful overview of the subsequent work. Chapter two and three tackle the issue of a species interactions with its environment in the former case in terms of cooperation between species and in the latter case ideas of density-dependent patterns and the range of responses that can be seen from this. Although single populations are useful for study, real populations interact. Chapter four examines the mechanisms behind local population numbers and dynamics. On a similar theme, chapter five analyses predator-prey interactions looking at both theory and practice. There are issues here highlighting the need to integrate the two as far as possible. Plants also interact and so the advances made here are discussed in chapter six. Here, the use of diatoms as a case is interesting because it demonstrates that size is no barrier to dynamics. This is illustrated here specifically for alongside the diatoms there's discussion of trees. The interaction picture is further complicated in chapter 7 where larger numbers of species combine in different ways to determine population number. Diversity is a crucial topic especially in conservation. Along with stability, these two form the backbone of chapter 8 which looks at how our understanding is changing from a simple model to the far more complex but less certain ideas we have presently. This is linked to chapter 9 which aims to review theoretical and practical advances in community ecology. Next we turn to infectious diseases. Although not part of anyone's conservation scheme they still have a great deal to tell us about the development of population dynamics - one of the reasons that this field has developed so much recently. Chapter 11 looks at a very practical issue - the development of fisheries and the dynamics of species. This is a crucial area for many people and so fish management becomes a key area for debate. it also shows how literature outside the traditional ecological research community can be used to inform debate within it. A similarly practical concern is taken in chapter 12 which looks at the impact of the Green Revolution. Here the focus is not just on the debate about food increase but on the way in which stakeholder input is essential for success. Conservation has never been more popular and reserve areas larger and yet never has pressure been so great on biodiversity. This paradox is not helped by issues in theoretical conservation nor by the economic and political systems that manage parks. In contrast to earlier chapters focussed on the mathematical elements of theoretical ecology, chapter 14 examines the ways in which climate change may affect species' distribution and survival. The final chapter takes stock of all that has gone before and argues that although some areas might seem esoteric they are important and do need to be addressed.

Overall this is an excellent high-level review of ecology well suited to its target audience of advanced undergraduates and beyond. There's also something for the more general reader especially in the later chapters which look at some of the more pressing issues of our times reminding us that we need to examine both theory and practice to make the best decisions.





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