Qualitative Reasoning about Population and Community Ecology

  • Paulo Salles
  • Bert Bredeweg


Traditional approaches to ecological modeling, based on mathematical equations, are hampered by the qualitative nature of ecological knowledge. In this article, we demonstrate that qualitative reasoning provides alternative and productive ways for ecologists to develop, organize, and implement models. We present a qualitative theory of population dynamics and use this theory to capture and simulate commonsense theories about population and community ecology. Advantages of this approach include the possibility of deriving relevant conclusions about ecological systems without numeric data; a compositional approach that enables the reusability of models representing partial behavior; the use of a rich vocabulary describing objects, situations, relations, and mechanisms of change; and the capability to provide causal interpretations of system behavior.