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Ecological Methods

  1. Peter Alan Henderson

Published Online: 15 MAY 2012

DOI: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0003271.pub2



How to Cite

Henderson, P. A. 2012. Ecological Methods. eLS. .

Author Information

  1. Pisces Conservation Ltd, Hampshire, England

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 MAY 2012


Ecological methods cover a wide range of techniques required for studies that range in scale from the individuals on a single flower head to entire ecosystems with thousands of species. Although both the scale and the questions a study is designed to answer can vary greatly, there are certain key components that are always present in a well-designed ecological study. First, ecological studies involve setting objectives and formulating a sampling programme. Second, there is often a practical component involving measurement and sampling in the field, which frequently includes sorting, identifying and measuring the organisms retrieved. Third, there is data analysis and reporting. The results can be used to derive absolute or relative population abundance measures, construct life tables, probe population dynamics and estimate biodiversity.

Key Concepts:

  • Ecological methods address a wide range of scales and are concerned with the acquisition of data on individual organisms, single populations and entire ecosystems.

  • Ecological studies have three key components: programme planning, field data acquisition and data analysis.

  • Studies can be broadly classified as intensive or extensive. Extensive studies are carried out over larger areas than intensive studies and seek to obtain information on the distribution and abundance of species for conservation and management purposes. Intensive studies involve the repeated observation of a population to gain insight into demographic processes.

  • Sampling methods can be classified into absolute methods, which give densities per unit area of habitat and relative measures which give an index of abundance.


  • populations;
  • community;
  • ecology;
  • sampling methods;
  • diversity