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Laws, Theories, and Patterns in Ecology


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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.
Walter K. Dodds is Professor of Biology at Kansas State University and the author of Freshwater Ecology and Humanity's Footprint.
“It is encyclopedic in its treatment. . . the wide scope of the book turns up some surprising gems.”—Timothy F. H. Allen Bioscience
“Dodd’s goals for this book are both urgent and worthy.”—Ecology
“Valuable contribution.”—Eric Keeling Ecoscience
"Laws, Theories, and Patterns in Ecology is an insightful exploration of long-standing controversies over whether ecology has any laws and how much ecological theories have helped us to understand and predict the workings of nature. Dodds tackles the latest 'global theories of everything' (e.g., neutral theory, metabolic theory) as well as a host of other widely bruited ecological propositions, and he challenges any ecologist's goals and criteria for advancing the field."—Daniel Simberloff, University of Tennessee

"With this book, Walter Dodds makes a significant contribution to the persistent controversy over whether ecology has laws. Indeed, the core of this book is a well laid-out, coherently linked series of statements that clearly deserve to be labeled laws. That he does this while surveying the breadth of ecology, from individuals to populations, communities, and ecosystems, is all the more remarkable. This book will stimulate deep and productive discussion of the conceptual structure of modern ecology."—Steward T.A. Pickett, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies

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