What makes populations stabilize? What makes them fluctuate? Are populations in complex ecosystems more stable than populations in simple ecosystems? In 1973, Robert May addressed these questions in this classic book. May investigated the mathematical roots of population dynamics and argued-counter to most current biological thinking-that complex ecosystems in themselves do not lead to population stability.
The foundation of human health rests on healthy, stable ecosystems. Our biotic
environment provides us with the fundamentals necessary for healthy lives—food,
water, oxygen, warmth, light, and fuel. Earth's ecosystems also supply the raw
materials for our health-care services. The global fraying of ecosystems has grave
implications for our health and our ability to treat illnesses, now and in the future.
I often enjoy my lunch at a small café named Holly Berry’s. It’s
one of those places where people quickly know your name, at
least your first name, where congeniality and food are offered
with equal gusto. I was talking to Jack, who most folks would describe
as a cook until they taste his food, at which point he’d be
better described as a chef. Jack asked me if I was writing a book
while on sabbatical and I said that I was, one about the concept of
the balance of nature. Jack allowed as to how he had not given a
great deal of thought to the...