About this book
Often the meanings of words are changed subtly for interesting reasons. The implication of the word 'community' has changed from including all the organisms in an area to only those species at a particular trophic level (and often a taxonomically restricted group), for example, 'bird-community'. If this observation is correct, its probable cause is the dramatic growth in our knowledge of the ecological patterns along trophic levels (I call these horizontal patterns) and the processes that generate them. This book deals with vertical patterns - those across trophic levels -and tries to compensate for their relative neglect. In cataloging a dozen vertical patterns I hope to convince the reader that species interactions across trophic levels are as patterned as those along trophic levels and demand explanations equally forcefully. But this is not the only objective. A limited number of processes shape the patterns of species interaction; to demonstrate their existence is an essential step in understanding why ecosystems are the way they are. To achieve these aims I must resort to both mathematical techniques to develop theories and statistical techniques to decide between rival hypotheses. The level of mathematics is likely to offend nearly everyone. Some will find any mathematics too much, while others will consider the material to be old, familiar ground and probably explained with a poor regard for rigour and generality.
complexity ecosystem energy environment growth stability statistics