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Complex Population Dynamics: A Theoretical/Empirical Synthesis (MPB-35) (Monographs in Population Biology) Paperback – February 2, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0691090214 ISBN-10: 0691090211

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Complex Population Dynamics: A Theoretical/Empirical Synthesis (MPB-35) (Monographs in Population Biology) + An Introduction to Systems Biology: Design Principles of Biological Circuits (Chapman & Hall/CRC Mathematical and Computational Biology)
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Product Details

  • Series: Monographs in Population Biology (Book 35)
  • Paperback: 472 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (February 2, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691090211
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691090214
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,627,735 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Turchin has to be congratulated for the conceptual clarity of the book. . . . I especially recommend the book's first two parts to anyone interested in how to model and analyze population fluctuations. . . . Turchin offers researchers and students alike interesting material and a great deal to think about."--Esa Ranta, Science

"This book contributes profoundly to the literature. . . . [It] may have a huge impact on the field."--Nils Chr. Stenseth, Nature

"A superbly written text offering many fresh insights both pragmatic and profound. . . . Throughout the book, Turchin manages to present complex material in an informal style with clarity and eloquence."--Douglas H. Deutschman, Ecology

From the Inside Flap

"This book gives an excellent introduction to our maturing understanding of how ideas about nonlinear dynamical systems can shed light on the complex behavior of real populations. Turchin first presents the theoretical concepts, next the data, and finally brings the two together in thoughtfully presented case studies. He splendidly achieves his aim of showing how ecological problems can be illuminated by mathematical models which are--in Einstein's words--'as simple as possible, but not more so.' "--Robert M. May, President, Royal Society

"This book is a true landmark in the study of population ecology. Never before has a lucid synthesis of the basic principles and models of population dynamics been so effectively merged with insightful analyses of some of the best data for populations of insects, birds and mammals. Peter Turchin writes with admirable clarity and authority, always retaining a focus on issues that really matter for population ecology."--Ilkka Hanski, University of Helsinki

"Turchin has done an outstanding job and produced a significant milestone in our understanding of population dynamics. I have long been seeking a book like this. It is readable and accessible while going into a good depth that so many undergraduate texts fail. All people working in the field will use it, and professors will use it in courses on population dynamics. The presentation is superb--the text gallops along."--Peter Hudson, University of Stirling

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful By John J. Xenakis, author of Generational Dynamics on March 17, 2004
Format: Paperback
Politicians often say things like, "Let's not follow each other off a cliff like lemmings," but it's not true that lemmings really follow each other off a cliff in nature. What IS true is that some species of lemmings have huge populations some years, and become almost extinct in other years.
Why does the population of lemmings vary so much? It turns out that it has to do with the interaction of the lemmings with their food supply and their predators. When there are a lot of lemmings, then they eat all the edible vegetation and begin starving, and their predators, like weasels, thrive and kill the lemmings off, so that lemmings almost disappear. With no lemmings around, the food can grow again unmolested, and predators, having nothing to eat, die off themselves. That leaves the field clear for lemmings to thrive, and their populations grow, repeating the cycle every three to five years.
Peter Turchin formalizes all this for a wide variety of animal species -- from the Larch budmouth to the southern pine beetle, from the red grouse to the snowshoe hare. He develops mathematical models for the populations of all these species and tests the models with known data time series.
This landmark book is a must for serious professionals involved in ecology and other biological and natural sciences.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By hossiet on September 13, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Great book, read it multiple times. Great synthesis of theory and empitical work. Anyone interested in population biology should read it.
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5 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Mr. David A. Coutts on October 11, 2006
Format: Paperback
The purpose of Turchin's tome is to answer the question "Does Population Ecology Have "Laws"? (the subject of an earlier paper by him). Turchin wants to claim that population ecology is a "mature science", and uses some largely philosophical arguments to claim similarities to Newton's laws. I was not convinced.

Whilst I think he does an admirable job of explaining the current state of thinking in the field of population ecology, I believe he fails to adequately explain the first principles, leaping from the semi-firm footing of Malthusian population theory to a morass of bits of models that only partially work.

Turchin refers to the exponential law of population ecology (Malthus, 1798) as a "good candidate" for "the first principle of population dynamics". The Malthusian argument is that populations grow exponentially (at a constant rate) when "unchecked" (as Malthus would say) or as long as the "environment... remains constant" (as Turchin puts it).

Of course, this never happens, and there is no evidence presented (by any author) of any population ever having sustained indefinite exponential growth (at a constant rate). All real-world examples of exponential growth turn out to be temporary periods of exponential growth (at a constant rate).

Various other models are considered, but each with caveats and drawbacks. In short, there is - apparently - no simple law of population ecology.

==Re-interpreting Malthus==

Yet Malthus argued that (human) populations double every 25 years (when unchecked), and then explained very carefully that all human populations are checked (by war, famine, pestilence, Death, or "moral restraint")!
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