Ecological Understanding

The Nature of Theory and the Theory of Nature


  • Steward Pickett, Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Millbrook, New York, U.S.A.
  • Jurek Kolasa, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
  • Clive Jones, Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Millbrook, New York, U.S.A.

This widely anticipated revision of the groundbreaking book, Ecological Understanding, updates this crucial sourcebook of contemporary philosophical insights for practicing ecologists and graduate students in ecology and environmental studies. The second edition contains new ecological examples, an expanded array of conceptual diagrams and illustrations, new text boxes summarizing important points or defining key terms, and new reference to philosophical issues and controversies. Although the first edition was recognized for its clarity, this revision takes the opportunity to make the exposition of complex topics still clearer to readers without a philosophical background. Readers will gain an understanding of the goals of science, the structure of theory, the kinds of theory relevant to ecology, the way that theory changes, what constitutes objectivity in contemporary science, and the role of paradigms and frameworks for synthesis within ecology and in integration with other disciplines. Finally, how theory can inform and anchor the public use of ecological knowledge in civic debates is laid out. This new edition refines the understanding of how the structure and change of theory can improve the growth and application of one of the 21st century’s key sciences.
View full description


Researchers, faculty, graduate students and advanced undergraduates actively engaged in ecological research. This book is especially appropriate for advanced ecology seminar courses and should appeal to any ecologist.


Book information

  • Published: July 2007
  • ISBN: 978-0-12-554522-8

Table of Contents

ForewordPrefacePart I: Advancing the Discipline and Enhancing ApplicationsCh. 1 Integration in EcologyCh. 2 Understanding in EcologyPart II: The Nature of TheoryCh. 3 The Anatomy of TheoryCh. 4 The Ontogeny of TheoryCh. 5 The Taxonomy of TheoryPart III: From Theory to Integration and ApplicationCh. 6 Fundamental Questions:Changes in UnderstandingCh. 7 Integration and SynthesisPart IV: Theory and Its EnvironmentCh. 8 Constraint and Objectivity in Ecological IntegrationCh. 9 Ecological Understanding and the Public