© 2009

A Primer of Ecology with R

  • M. Henry H. Stevens

Part of the Use R! book series (USE R)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xvi
  2. Single Species Populations

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 1-1
    2. M. Henry H. Stevens
      Pages 3-31
    3. M. Henry H. Stevens
      Pages 33-60
    4. M. Henry H. Stevens
      Pages 61-109
    5. M. Henry H. Stevens
      Pages 111-132
  3. Two-species Interactions

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 133-133
    2. M. Henry H. Stevens
      Pages 135-159
    3. M. Henry H. Stevens
      Pages 161-208
  4. Special Topics

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 209-209
    2. M. Henry H. Stevens
      Pages 227-253
    3. M. Henry H. Stevens
      Pages 285-333
  5. Back Matter
    Pages 335-401

About this book


Ecology is more quantitative and theory-driven than ever before, and A Primer of Ecology with R combines an introduction to the major theoretical concepts in general ecology with a cutting edge open source tool, the R programming language. Starting with geometric growth and proceeding through stability of multispecies interactions and species-abundance distributions, this book demystifies and explains fundamental ideas in population and community ecology. Graduate students in ecology, along with upper division undergraduates and faculty, will find this to be a useful overview of important topics.

In addition to the most basic topics, this book includes construction and analysis of demographic matrix models, metapopulation and source-sink models, host-parasitoid and disease models, multiple basins of attraction, the storage effect, neutral theory, and diversity partitioning. Several sections include examples of confronting models with data. Chapter summaries and problem sets at the end of each chapter provide opportunities to evaluate and enrich one's understanding of the ecological ideas that each chapter introduces.

R is rapidly becoming the lingua franca of quantitative sciences, and this text provides a tractable introduction to using the R programming environment in ecology. An appendix provides a general introduction, and examples of code throughout each chapter give readers the option to hone their growing R skills.

M. Henry H. Stevens is an associate professor in the Department of Botany and the Ecology graduate program at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, USA. He is the author or coauthor of the R packages "primer" and "vegan".

"The distinctive strength of this book is that truths are mostly not revealed but discovered, in the way that R-savvy ecologists—empirical and theoretical—work and think now. For readers still chained to spreadsheets, working through this book could be a revolution in their approach to doing science." (Stephen P. Ellner, Cornell University)

"One of the greatest strengths…is the integration of ecological theory with examples ... pulled straight from the literature." (James R. Vonesh, Virginia Commonwealth University)


Ecology General ecology Master Patient Index Population ecology Theoretical ecology community ecology environment

Editors and affiliations

  • M. Henry H. Stevens
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BotanyMiami UniversityOxfordUSA

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From the reviews:

“…I found the text to be an excellent foray into ecological models using R. I plan to use this book in my upcoming modeling course for upper-level undergraduates, a course cross-listed in the math and biology departments. The models will present some challenges for my students but I think the pace of the text will work for them. In addition, many of my students will be new to R, and to programming, but the text does a great job of integrating an introduction to R with the models. I can see this book being valuable to graduate students and research ecologists wishing to work with these foundational models in R. It is now time to jump into R!” (Ecology, 91(4), 2010)

“Ecology is a complex discipline that can best be understood by making suitable abstractions, or models. The simplest mathematical models are composed of general rules and rarely require more than two equations. These models have the advantage that they apply to a variety of systems. The book…primarily focuses on population dynamics, a field where such simple models are commonly used. …the novelty lies in the tools that are used to make the theory work and that will undoubtedly bring this type of analysis closer to the individual researcher and the students. …Undoubtedly, this book will contribute to the further democratization of mathematical modeling and the use of R in this field. Given the variety of the topics covered, the highly readable text, and the ready-to-use code excerpts, I consider the book an absolute must for those who are active or intend to work in the field of population modeling.” (Journal of Statistical Software, January 2010, Vol. 32, Book Review 3)

“This volume fills an important niche in the ecology textbook community. Like other primers, this book covers many of the core concepts of ecology, particularly population ecology, but Stevens goes into greater depth, presenting many of the complexities of core ecological processes. … an excellent volume for graduate-level courses in ecology and will be useful to ecologists who desire to refamiliarize themselves with core ecological concepts while learning computational analysis and modeling techniques.” (Matthew Aiello-Lammens, The Quarterly Review of Biology, Vol. 85 (3), 2010)