12.517 | Spring 2000 | Graduate

Dynamics of Complex Systems: Complexity in Ecology


Lec # Topics Readings



How many Species are there on Earth?

May, R. M. “How many Species are there on Earth?” Science 241 (1988): 1441-9.

Food Webs


Introduction to Food Webs and Trophic Interactions

Cohen, J. E., and C. M. Newman. “A Stochastic Theory of Community Food Webs I. Models and Aggregated Data.” Proc R Soc Lond B 224 (1985): 421-48.

Pimm, S. L., J. H. Lawton, and J. E. Cohen. “Food Web Patterns and their Consequences.” Nature 350 (1991): 669-74.


Empirical Examples and Critiques of the Cascade Model

Goldwasser, L., and J. Roughgarden. “Construction and Analysis of a Large Caribbean Food Web.” Ecology 74 (1993): 1216-33.

Havens, K. “Scale and Structure in Natural Food Webs.” Science 257 (1992): 1107-9.


Dynamical Models of Food Webs

Pimm, S. L., and J. H. Lawton. “Number of Trophic Levels in Ecological Communities.” Nature 268 (1977): 329-331.

Post, W. M., and S. L. Pimm. “Community Assembly and Food Web Stability.” Mathematical Biosciences 64 (1983): 169-192.

Biodiversity and Ecological Stability


What is the Relationship Between Complexity and Stability?

May, R. M. “Will a Large Complex System be Stable?” Nature 238 (1972): 413-414.

Cohen, J. E., and C. M. Newman. “When will a Large Complex System be Stable?” J Theor Biol 113 (1985): 153-6.

Solow, A. R., C. Costello, and A. Beet. “On an Early Result on Stability and Complexity.” American Naturalist 154 (1999): 587-588.


Evidence from Experiments

Tilman, D. “Biodiversity: Population versus Ecosystem Stability.” Ecology 77 (1996): 350-363.


Diversity Stability Relationships: Statistical Inevitability or Ecological Consequence?

Doak, D. F., et al. “The Statistical Inevitability of Stability Diversity Relationships in Community Ecology.” American Naturalist 151 (1998): 264-76.

Tilman, D., C. L. Lehman, and C. E. Bristow. “Diversity Stability Relationships: Statistical Inevitability or Ecological Consequence?” American Naturalist 151 (1998): 277-82.

Diversity and Ecosystem Function


Diversity in Terrestrial Ecosystems

Naeem, S., L. J. Thompson, S. P. Lawler, J. H. Lawton, and R. M. Woodfin. “Empirical Evidence that Declining Species Diversity may Alter the Performance of Terrestrial Ecosystems.” Phil Trans R Soc Lond B 347 (1995): 249-62.


Perspectives on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Function

Grime, J. P. “Biodiversity and Ecosystem Function: The Debate Deepens.” Science 277 (1997): 1260-1.

Wardle, D. A., O. Zackrisson, G. Hornberg, and C. Gallet. “The Influence of Island Area on Ecosystem Properties.” Science 277 (1997): 1296-1300.

Tilman, D., J. Knops, D. Wedin, P. Reich, M. Ritchie, and M. Siemann. “The Influence of Functional Diversity and Composition on Ecosystem Processes.” Science 277 (1997): 1300-2.

Hooper, D. U., and P. M. Vitousek. “The Effects of Plant Composition and Diversity on Ecosystem Processes.” Science 277 (1997): 1302-5.

Species-area Relationships


Island Biogeography

MacArthur, R. H., and E. O. Wilson. “An Equilibrium Theory of Insular Zoogeography.” Evolution 17 (1963): 373-387.


Theoretical Foundation: Log-normal Distributions of Species Abundance Power-law Species-area Curves

May, R. M. “Patterns of Species Abundance and Diversity.” In Ecology and Evolution of Communities. Edited by M. L. Cody and J. M. Diamond. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 1975, pp. 81-120. ISBN: 9780674224445.


Spatial Models

Durrett, R., and S. Levin. “Spatial Models for Species-area Curves.” Journal of Theoretical Biology 179 (1996): 119-127.

Species-energy Relationships


What is the Role of Resource Availability in Species-area Relationships?

Wright, D. H. “Species-energy Theory: An Extension of Species-area Theory.” Oikos 41 (1983): 4896-506.


Empirical Tests of Species-energy Theory

Currie. “Energy and Large-scale Patterns of Animal- and Plant-species Richness.” The American Naturalist 137 (1991): 27-49.


Issues of Scale

Rosenzweig, M. L., and Z. Abramsky. “How are Diversity and Productivity Related?” In Diversity in Ecological Communities. Edited by R. E. Ricklefs and D. Schluter. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1994, pp. 52-65. ISBN: 9780226718224.

Wright, D. H., D. J. Currie, and B. A. Maurer. “Energy Supply and Patterns of Species Richness on Local and Regional Scales.” In Diversity in Ecological Communities. Edited by R. E. Ricklefs and D. Schluter. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1994, pp. 66-74. ISBN: 9780226718224.

Extinctions and Home Range


Extinction Rates and Range Contraction of Endangered Species

Lawton, J. H. “Population Dynamics Principles.” In Extinction Rates. Edited by R. H. Lawton and R. M. May. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1995, pp. 147-63. ISBN: 9780198548294.

Channel, R., and M. V. Lomolino. “Dynamic Biogeography and Conservation of Endangered Species.” Nature 403 (2000): 84-6.

The Role of Body Size in Ecology


Introduction to Body Size in the Context of Evolution and Ecology

LaBarbera, M. “Analyzing Body Size as a Factor in Ecology and Evolution.” Annu Rev Ecol Sys 20 (1989): 97-117.


Allometric Constraints, Resource Equipartitioning and Body Size

Damuth, J. “Population Density and Body Size in Mammals.” Nature 290 (1981): 699-700.

Enquist, B. J., J. H. Brown, and G. B. West. “Allometric Scaling of Plant Energetics and Population Density.” Nature 395 (1998): 163-5.


Cope’s Rule

Alroy, J. “Cope’s Rule and the Dynamics of Body Mass Evolution in North American Fossil Mammals.” Science 280 (1998): 731-4.


Home Range Scaling and Statistical Artifacts in Abundance Sampling

Lindstedt, S. L., B. J. Miller, and S. W. Buskirk. “Home Range, Time and Body Size in Mammals.” Ecology 67 (1986): 413-8.

Blackburn, T. M., and K. J. Gaston. “Abundance-body Size Relationships: the Area you Census tells you More.” Oikos 75 (1996): 303-9.


Evolutionary Entropy and Body Size

Demetrius, L. “Directionality Principles in Thermodynamics and Evolution.” Proc Natl Acad Sci 94 (1997): 3491-8.

———. “Directionality Theory and the Evolution of Body Size.” (Unpublished, 2000).

Student Presentations


Student Presentations


Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2000