What are some of the standard books to study :

  • Biological Interactions: Symbiosis, Mutualism...etc
  • Concept of Limiting factors
  • Niche concept
  • Resource partitioning
  • Concepts of community change
  • Theories of climax
  • Models of Succession

P.S. I am looking for a book for beginners for studying ecology at UG level.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ You must know by now that this question is going to be closed as too broad and/or primarily opinion based. $\endgroup$
    – kmm
    Commented Jan 1, 2017 at 15:39
  • $\begingroup$ Related: biology.stackexchange.com/questions/45716/… $\endgroup$
    – user25568
    Commented May 10, 2017 at 11:09
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Nobody else ever did vote to close. Tyto Alba (second reincarnation of another name) is unfortunately long gone. So I've voted to close. $\endgroup$
    – David
    Commented Nov 18, 2018 at 20:17

3 Answers 3


A classic standard textbook that I've used a lot myself (earlier editions) is Begon, Harper & Townsend. This book is very broad and comprehensive, but I know that some students dislike it's back-and-forth discussion style (fewer definite answers). I see this as a strength though.

Another good choice, that is much shorter, is Gotelli's A Primer of Ecology. This one has a slight theoretical leaning (many standard mathematical models), but can work well in a introductory course. I don't have the book in front of me, but, looking at your list of topics, I suspect that A Primer... might be weak in some of them (e.g. climax, succession).

  • $\begingroup$ How good will Fundamentals of ecology be? I found an old copy of the book in my college library, it dates back to 1996. $\endgroup$
    – Tyto alba
    Commented Jan 9, 2017 at 15:37
  • $\begingroup$ @SanjuktaGhosh I've only browsed it, so I cannot really say. It's a classic that has gone through numerous editions though. Most well-known textbook has a good coverage though, and you cannot go too wrong for an overview of the major topics. The biggest differences are in writing/presentation style and emphasis. As I mentioned, A Primer.. has a slight theoretical bias (for an overview text) while e.g. Evolutionary Ecology (Pianka) emphasise, well, evolutionary aspects. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 10, 2017 at 9:26
  • $\begingroup$ @fileunderwater Thanks for mentioning a book for learning basics of the mathematical theories of ecology (Gotelli). I'll look for this book at library. $\endgroup$
    – user25568
    Commented Apr 25, 2017 at 8:55

Ecology Textbooks:

Molles, M.C. 2010. Ecology: Concepts and Applications. Fifth edition. McGraw-Hill. New York, NY. p. 572.

  • I'd say this is the "standard" undergraduate textbook. Those planning on continuing to graduate work should best know this book cover to cover by the end of their 1st year of graduate work.

  • Tons of pictures, lot's of definitions (with glossary), tons of references, and easy to read (as far as textbooks go).

Begon, M., C.R. Townsend & J.L. Harper. 2006. Ecology: From Individuals to Ecosystems. Fourth edition. Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Malden, MA. 738 pp.

  • As @fileunderwater said, this is the standard text for ecology. I'd say anyone moving through graduate work should know the concepts in this book front-to-back by the time they finish their graduate degree.

  • Strengths: Numerous relevant publications; good discussion; most in-depth/comprehensive of those I've read.

  • That being said, it's not the greatest place to start. There are no colorful pictures, there are no bolded definitions (and no glossary), and the discussion assumes you already have a grasp of simple concepts.

J Gurevitch, S.M. Scheiner & G.A. Fox. 2006. The Ecology of Plants. 2nd ed. Sinauer Associates, Inc Sunderland MA. 574 pp.

  • This is a great textbook to learn about the ecology of plants (well illustrated, lot's of definitions, fairly easy to read but still fairly comprehensive).

  • This book would best be read having already taken an intro ecology class.

Smith, R.L. and T.M. Smith. 2001. Ecology & Field Biology. 6th Edition. Benjamin Cummings, USA. 843 pp.

  • This book is very dated, which results in a number of more recent studies not being mentioned. However, if the goal is to develop a simple understanding of ecological principles, this book could be found very cheap online.

Bush, Mark B. 2003. Ecology of a Changing Planet. 3rd edition. Prentice-Hall, Inc, New Jersey. 477 pp.

  • This book is likewise very dated, which results in a number of more recent studies not being mentioned. However, again, if the goal is to develop a simple understanding of ecological principles, this book could be found very cheap online.

I would also say that the chapter introductions (as well as copied papers) in Foundations of Ecology (Real & Brown 1991) are great for catching you up on both the history of the field of ecology and the most important classic papers/researchers in the field.

Books on Communities & Succession:

These are a bit more dated, but here are some of the classic books on these topics.

  • Bazzaz, F. A. 1996. Plants in Changing Environments: Linking Physiological, Population, and Community ecology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 320 pp.

  • Bormann, F. Herbert, and Gene E. Likens. 1979. Pattern and Process in a Forested Ecosystem: Disturbance, Development, and the Steady State Based On the Hubbard Brook Ecosystem Study. Springer-Verlag, New York. 253 pp.

  • Glenn-Lewin, David C., R K. Peet, and Thomas T. Veblen, eds. 1992. Plant Succession: Theory and Prediction. Chapman & Hall, London. 352 pp.

  • West, D C., Daniel B. Botkin, and Herman H. Shugart, eds. 1981. Forest Succession: Concepts and Application. Springer-Verlag, New York. 517pp.

  • Whittaker, Robert H. 1975. Communities and Ecosystems. 2d ed. Macmillan, New York. 385 pp.


Let me provide a second answer that summarizes the responses given by a number of ecologists from all over the world. These ecologists gave the below responses to a similar question asked on ECOLOG on Jan 30, 2018. This will hopefully broaden the search for others coming across this post in the future...

  • Note: The ECOLOG question specifically asked:

    I’m looking for recommendations/suggestions of a general ecology book, preferably with at least some plant examples to supplement lectures and field in a brief introductory ecology class for adults who are interested in and often quite knowledgeable about (native) plants

The responses (in ABC order):

  • Cain, Michael L., William D. Bowman, and Sally D. Hacker. 2013. Ecology. 3rd Ed. (4th Ed. due May, 2018, authors same but start with Bowman). Oxford University Press.

    • It was fairly easy to consume and had lots of material to draw from...though I believe it was more geared towards theoretical ecology rather than naturalism.
  • Drury, William H. ed. John G.T. Anderson. 1998. Chance and change: ecology for conservationists. University of California Press, Berkeley.

    • Bill Drury, who wrote against models like "Classical succession", and after he died his family asked me to edit his manuscript for an "alternative" Ecology text book. It is by no means perfect, but it seems to have held up pretty well & provokes good discussion among students.
  • Ennos, Roland. 2016. Trees: a complete guide to their biology and structure. Comstock Publishing Associates.

    • It doesn't cover quite the subject matter you're looking for, but I quite enjoyed "Trees: A Complete Guide to Their Biology and Structure" by Roland Ennos. It's fairly small, but technical, almost like a chapter or two from a broader introductory textbook. It gave me a basic overview of the natural history of, well, trees.
  • Gurevitch, Jessica, Samuel M. Scheiner, and Gordon A. Fox. 2006.The Ecology of Plants, 2nd Ed. Oxford University Press/Sinauer Associates.

    • Book intro says it is basic ecology with plant focus. How about The Ecology of Plants?
  • Gotelli, Nicholas J. 2008. Primer of Ecology 4th Ed. Oxford University Press/ Sinauer Associates.

    • good and succinct, but might not be right for your audience. [technical with focus on models]
  • Karban, Richard, Mikaela Huntzinger & Ian S. Pearse. 2014. How to do ecology: a concise handbook 2nd Ed. Princeton University Press.

    • I also really like “How to do Ecology” by Karban and Hartzinger about the process of developing and conducting ecological research, but again, might not be right for this situation. [looks very useful for planning research projects]
  • Keddy, Paul A. 2017. Plant Ecology, origins, processes, consequences. 2nd Ed. Cambridge University Press. New York.

    • Covers basics but book intro suggests reviewing basic ecology text.
  • Marchetti, Michael P. & Peter B. Moyle. 2010. Protecting Life on Earth: an introduction to the science of conservation. University of California Press, Berkeley.

    • A short non-majors ecology/conservation biology text. I think we did a solid job at explaining general ecology to nonscience people. you might check it out, although it is not plant centered but there are plant examples.
  • Molles, Manuel C., Jr. 2014. Ecology: Concepts and applications 7th Ed. McGraw-Hill Higher Education.

    • Manuel Molles book is good. I like the idea that he focuses on students understanding the language of science (figs and table-with helpful annotations-still use some of those in my senior level cons bio class)
  • Relyea, Rick and Robert E. Ricklefs. 2017. The Economy of Nature 8th Ed. W.H. Freeman Publishers.

    • Completely redid all of the figures and photos, with lots of plant examples. I am pleased to report that the response from instructors and students has been very positive. [the chapter on line has a terrific discussion of soils, and plants and soil relations]
  • Stokols, Danel. 2017. Social ecology in the digital age: solving complex problems in a globalized world. Academic Press/Elsevier.

    • Know you’re interested in identifying a general ecology text, but in case you’re interested in a supplemental text on social and human ecology, this 2018 title might be a relevant resource for you and your students: Social Ecology in the Digital Age - Solving Complex Problems in a Globalized World.
  • Apparently a good blog: fredsingerecology.com

    • Weekly blog that discusses recent papers in Ecology (~75%) and Conservation Biology (~25%). Each post has background, hypotheses, data and a discussion of why this question is important or of interest. It's designed to be used for instruction at a high school/college level, and should work fine for interested adults, regardless of background. Emphasis on interactions, reflecting author's preferences, but has fair number of posts that focus on plants.

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