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 population stability.
Stability and Complexity in Model Ecosystems played a key role in introducing nonlinear mathematical models and the study of deterministic chaos into ecology, a role chronicled in James Gleick's book Chaos. In the quarter century since its first publication, the book's message has grown in power. Nonlinear models are now at the center of ecological thinking, and current threats to biodiversity have made questions about the role of ecosystem complexity more crucial than ever. In a new introduction, the author addresses some of the changes that have swept biology and the biological world since the book's first publication.