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A Primer of Ecology

by Nicholas J. Gotelli

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901301,817 (3.1)None
A Primer of Ecology, Fourth Edition, presents a concise but detailed exposition of the most common mathematical models in population and community ecology. It is intended to demystify ecological models and the mathematics behind them by deriving the models from first principles. The book may be used as a self-teaching tutorial by students, as a primary textbook, or as a supplemental text to a general ecology textbook. The Primer explains in detail basic concepts of exponential and logistic population growth, age-structured demography, metapopulation dynamics, competition, predation, island biogeography, succession, and, in a chapter new to this edition, species richness. Each chapter is carefully graded from simple material that is appropriate for beginning undergraduates to advanced material, which is suited for upper-division undergraduates and beginning graduate students. Advanced topics include environmental and demographic stochasticity, discrete population growth and chaos, stage-structured demography, intraguild predation, nonlinear predator-prey isoclines, and passive sampling. Each chapter follows the same structure: model presentation and predictions, model assumptions, model variations, empirical examples, and problems. Essential equations are highlighted for students' use. Intermediate algebraic "expressions" are also illustrated so that students see where the equations came from. New terms are introduced in the text in boldface type to alert students to novel concepts. The Primer contains more mathematical detail than many ecology textbooks, but avoids jargon and mathematical terminology that can intimidate students. Both simple and advanced problems are included, followed by fully worked solutions so that students can gain confidence and a better understanding of the models. Citations are kept to a minimum.… (more)
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This is a very good introduction to the mathematical models used in population dynamics. The author begins with a simple exponential model of population growth, gradually extends the model to account for more realistic behavior (e.g. density effects, age-related effects, competition), and ends with a chapter on island biogeography. A very useful feature is that each chapter follows a regular format: model presentation and predictions, model assumptions, model variations and model examples. In addition, the examples at the end of each chapter, taken for scientific literature, show how these mathematical models apply to the analysis of real ecological systems. A minor drawback is that the derivation of an equation is sometimes hard to follow. For example, in chapter 1, when switching between continuous-time and discrete-time equations, notation seems to get re-used. So, the reader must be aware that the meaning and units of a symbol may vary, depending on the equation it is being used in.
I don't have a background in biology or ecology, but I enjoyed reading this book and learned a lot from it.
(This review is for the 1995 edition. This edition ends with chapter 7, Island Biogeography. Later editions, otherwise similar, have an additional chapter.) ( )
  dougb56586 | Jun 6, 2019 |
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A Primer of Ecology, Fourth Edition, presents a concise but detailed exposition of the most common mathematical models in population and community ecology. It is intended to demystify ecological models and the mathematics behind them by deriving the models from first principles. The book may be used as a self-teaching tutorial by students, as a primary textbook, or as a supplemental text to a general ecology textbook. The Primer explains in detail basic concepts of exponential and logistic population growth, age-structured demography, metapopulation dynamics, competition, predation, island biogeography, succession, and, in a chapter new to this edition, species richness. Each chapter is carefully graded from simple material that is appropriate for beginning undergraduates to advanced material, which is suited for upper-division undergraduates and beginning graduate students. Advanced topics include environmental and demographic stochasticity, discrete population growth and chaos, stage-structured demography, intraguild predation, nonlinear predator-prey isoclines, and passive sampling. Each chapter follows the same structure: model presentation and predictions, model assumptions, model variations, empirical examples, and problems. Essential equations are highlighted for students' use. Intermediate algebraic "expressions" are also illustrated so that students see where the equations came from. New terms are introduced in the text in boldface type to alert students to novel concepts. The Primer contains more mathematical detail than many ecology textbooks, but avoids jargon and mathematical terminology that can intimidate students. Both simple and advanced problems are included, followed by fully worked solutions so that students can gain confidence and a better understanding of the models. Citations are kept to a minimum.

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