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Applying the principles of population biology: assessment and recommendations

  • Louis W. Botsford
  • Subodh K. Jain
Part of the Monographiae Biologicae book series (MOBI, volume 67)

Abstract

In addition to describing recent developments in specific fields, the previous chapters demonstrate a common theme, that the solutions to practical problems have not involved the ready application of a set of firm principles of population biology. Here we (a) explore several possible reasons why this is so, (b) evaluate several weaknesses in the ways in which theoretical principles are currently developed, and (c) suggest several modifications of our approach to both the development of theory and the application of the resulting principles of population biology to practical problems. There is a large amount of uncertainty inherent in the problems of population biology, due to both natural variability on a wide range of temporal and spatial scales, and limited knowledge of mechanisms. The former represents an inherent limit on predictability, and the latter is unique to population biology because of the inherent heterogeneity of mechanisms and behavior. Both should be more widely appreciated among decision makers, as they limit reasonable expectations. They deserve wider appreciation among population biologists as well, as they set a requirement for a special approach tailored to the specific nature of this uncertainty. We recommend an approach in which results from applications are monitored so that they can form an empirical extension of the process of developing theoretical principles. This approach would both foster development of a theory that could be more useful in the solution of practical problems in applied population biology and provide additional empirical support for the theory itself. In the development of a “general, predictive” theory, we recommend (1) closer adherence to the more restrictive definition of the word “general” (i.e., holds for many specific cases) and (2) an appreciation for the weak implications of correct predictions. The former will require synthesis from a larger number of examples, which can be supplied from practical problems. The latter suggests a shift to more of a hypothetico-deductive scheme, which can guide the incorporation of results from applied problems into the empirical process. We point out several existing trends in directions consistent with these recommendations, as well as the points of view of a number of prominent population biologists who argue against a closer relationship between theory and the real world.

Keywords

Practical Problem Integrate Pest Management Theoretical Principle Population Biology Empirical Process 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Louis W. Botsford
    • 1
  • Subodh K. Jain
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Wildlife and Fisheries BiologyUniversity of CaliforniaDavisUSA
  2. 2.Department of Agronomy and Range ScienceUniversity of CaliforniaDavisUSA

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