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J Exp Mar Bio Ecol. 2000 Jul 30;250(1-2):97-115.

Observations in ecology: you can't make progress on processes without understanding the patterns.

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  • 1Centre for Research on Ecological Impacts of Coastal Cities, Marine Ecology Laboratories All, University of 2006, Sydney, NSW, Australia


Coastal marine ecology is, quite properly, increasingly focussed on experimental tests of hypotheses about processes. These are, however, done to explain observations and patterns. It is therefore appropriate to be able to publish quantitative observations to provide the context and basis for studying mechanisms and processes. Ecologists are concerned about very different types of observations. Some areas of study are still totally dependent on observational, descriptive evidence; some depend on mensurative tests of hypotheses about patterns. Tests of hypotheses about patterns are also needed to validate casual or qualitative observations. Guide-lines for what constitutes appropriate or publishable ecological descriptions are discussed here. These recognize the experimental, hypothesis-testing nature of many descriptive studies and consider the relevance of sound logic and experimental design in the planning, collection and interpretation of observations.

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