Over the past two decades much progress has been made in the study of ecology at the level of whole communities. The development of sophisticated modelling techniques capable of handling the complexity of interactions, together with increased rigour of analysis of field observation and recognition of the need for controlled experimentation, have led to tremendous advances in our understanding of communities and their dynamics. Progress has been so rapid, with advances made across such a broad range of fronts, that it is sometimes difficult to keep pace and retain a comprehensive overview of the entire discipline.
Community Ecology focuses on a search for pattern in the structure, composition and dynamics of ecological communities, examining the similarities and differences in composition or structure to try to establish what factors may determine - or constrain - the way such communities are organized in space and time.
Chapter 1 establishes the context of such a search for pattern, presenting essential definitions and exploring early work on community structure and organization. The various biotic and abiotic factors which may influence communities and their dynamics are reviewed in Chapter 2, while the way in which the interrelationships between organisms are structured within the community in food webs or in the partitioning of available resources are considered in separate chapters on food webs, niche relationships and species guilds. Later chapters explore the factors determining the assembly of communities, species composition and pattern of relative abundance and the relative roles of deterministic and stochastic processes in determining community structure. The concluding section explores the implications of observed patterns of structure and organization for stability. The mathematical analyses which are an essential component of this topic are included only where essential for understanding and are presented in special box features. Each mathematical section has been carefully structured and fully explained in biological terms. Community Ecology presents a refreshingly readable course text for advanced undergraduates in ecology.