Density dependence and the structure of ecological theory

Peter Abrams
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto

(November 23, 2009 2:30 PM - 3:30 PM)

Density dependence and the structure of ecological theory

Abstract

The talk will begin with some general comments on the role of ecological theory and its history. I will argue that a key element of a successful theory in any discipline - understanding of how and why simple models differ from more complex models - is largely lacking in theoretical ecology. This has meant that many specific simplifications have often become fixtures of almost all models without any knowledge of the either the adequacy or consequences of these simplifications. Models of density dependence and competition are, in most cases, simplified representations of the interactions of consumers exploiting resources that limit population growth. However, the most commonly used models of both density dependence and competition have features that are inconsistent with the majority of plausible consumer-resource models. Some other issues dealing with the choice of variables in ecological models will be discussed.