Ebert-May, D., K. S. Williams, E. P. Weber, J. Hodder, and D. Luckie. 2004. Practicing scientific inquiry: What are the rules? Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 2:492-493.
Ecologists attempt to establish general principles from a vast range of organizational, spatial, and temporal scales (Belovsky et al. 2004). The process of developing generalities in ecology involves two approaches often not addressed in introductory science courses: inductive and deductive. One way of thinking about this is to consider the inductive approach as examining particular cases and deriving general conclusions or rules from them, and the deductive approach as using generalities to make specific predictions that can then be tested. In this issue of Frontiers, Knapp et al. (pp 483-91) underline the need for general principles or “rules” in ecology, and research that tests the predictive limits of those rules. The rules illustrated in this article are based on long-term studies from the Konza prairie and Sevilleta Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) sites. Existing data from savanna grasslands in South Africa are used to test rules derived from Konza studies of grassland responses to fire.
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