On theory in ecology

Pablo A. Marquet, Andrew P. Allen, James H. Brown, Jennifer A. Dunne, Brian J. Enquist, James F. Gillooly, Patricia A. Gowaty, Jessica L. Green, John Harte, Steve P. Hubbell, James O'Dwyer, Jordan Okie, Annette Ostling, Mark Ritchie, David Storch, Geoffrey B. West

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

71 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

We argue for expanding the role of theory in ecology to accelerate scientific progress, enhance the ability to address environmental challenges, foster the development of synthesis and unification, and improve the design of experiments and large-scale environmental-monitoring programs. To achieve these goals, it is essential to foster the development of what we call efficient theories, which have several key attributes. Efficient theories are grounded in first principles, are usually expressed in the language of mathematics, make few assumptions and generate a large number of predictions per free parameter, are approximate, and entail predictions that provide well-understood standards for comparison with empirical data. We contend that the development and successive refinement of efficient theories provide a solid foundation for advancing environmental science in the era of big data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)701-710
Number of pages10
JournalBioScience
Volume64
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014

Fingerprint

Ecology
ecology
environmental science
Aptitude
prediction
environmental monitoring
Mathematics
Environmental Monitoring
Language
experimental design
synthesis
Grounded Theory
mathematics

Keywords

  • Big data
  • Maximum entropy theory of ecology
  • Metabolic theory
  • Neutral theory of biodiversity
  • Theory unification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)

Cite this

Marquet, P. A., Allen, A. P., Brown, J. H., Dunne, J. A., Enquist, B. J., Gillooly, J. F., ... West, G. B. (2014). On theory in ecology. BioScience, 64(8), 701-710. https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biu098

On theory in ecology. / Marquet, Pablo A.; Allen, Andrew P.; Brown, James H.; Dunne, Jennifer A.; Enquist, Brian J.; Gillooly, James F.; Gowaty, Patricia A.; Green, Jessica L.; Harte, John; Hubbell, Steve P.; O'Dwyer, James; Okie, Jordan; Ostling, Annette; Ritchie, Mark; Storch, David; West, Geoffrey B.

In: BioScience, Vol. 64, No. 8, 01.01.2014, p. 701-710.

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Marquet, PA, Allen, AP, Brown, JH, Dunne, JA, Enquist, BJ, Gillooly, JF, Gowaty, PA, Green, JL, Harte, J, Hubbell, SP, O'Dwyer, J, Okie, J, Ostling, A, Ritchie, M, Storch, D & West, GB 2014, 'On theory in ecology', BioScience, vol. 64, no. 8, pp. 701-710. https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biu098
Marquet PA, Allen AP, Brown JH, Dunne JA, Enquist BJ, Gillooly JF et al. On theory in ecology. BioScience. 2014 Jan 1;64(8):701-710. https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biu098
Marquet, Pablo A. ; Allen, Andrew P. ; Brown, James H. ; Dunne, Jennifer A. ; Enquist, Brian J. ; Gillooly, James F. ; Gowaty, Patricia A. ; Green, Jessica L. ; Harte, John ; Hubbell, Steve P. ; O'Dwyer, James ; Okie, Jordan ; Ostling, Annette ; Ritchie, Mark ; Storch, David ; West, Geoffrey B. / On theory in ecology. In: BioScience. 2014 ; Vol. 64, No. 8. pp. 701-710.
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