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Peter Abrams

Professor Emeritus, FRSC

BSc; PhD


No longer taking on any students
Publications: visit Google Scholar and see below.


Almost all of my work involves analyzing mathematical models to help understand the dynamics of ecological and evolutionary processes.  I have worked on a range of problems in population, community, and evolutionary ecology.  Over the last two decades, I have primarily worked on optimal foraging behaviour under predation risk, the coevolution of interacting species, the interaction of species in variable environments, the ecological effects of evolutionary change, adaptive movement in patchy environments, and the impacts of harvesting on population size.   I began my academic life working on competition for shells between hermit crabs, and have worked on a diverse array of within-species problems ranging from the evolution of anisogamy to the evolution of senescence.  My main project since retiring at the end of 2012 has been to develop a critical analysis of the structure and use of theory in ecology and evolution.  Part of this involves developing new theory on the population-level consequences of evolutionary and environmental change. I have also been involved in a number of projects related to fisheries.

2022 Book Release

Competition Theory in Ecology: Oxford University Press, 2022. Also available at Vital Source.
Description: Competition between species arises when two or more species share at least some of the same limited resources. It is likely to affect all species, as well as many higher-level aspects of community and ecosystem dynamics. Interspecific competition shares many of the same features as density dependence (intraspecific competition) and evolution (competition between genotypes). In spite of this, a robust theoretical framework is not yet in place to develop a more coherent understanding of this important interaction. Despite its prominence in the ecological literature, the theory seems to have lost direction in recent decades, with many synthetic papers promoting outdated ideas, failing to use resource-based models, and having little utility in applied fields such as conservation and environmental management. Competition theory has done little to incorporate new findings regarding consumer-resource interactions in the context of larger food webs containing behaviourally or evolutionarily adapting components. Overly simple models and methods of analysis continue to be influential. Competition Theory in Ecology represents a timely opportunity to address these shortcomings and suggests a more useful approach to modelling that can provide a basis for future models that have greater predictive ability in both ecology and evolution. The book concludes with some broader observations on the lack of agreement on general principles to use in constructing mathematical models to help understand ecological systems. It argues that a more open discussion and debate of the underlying structure of ecological theory is now urgently required to move the field forward.


From the past 10 years

Abrams, P. A., L. Ruokolainen, B. J. Shuter and K. S. McCann. 2012. Harvesting creates ecological traps: Consequences of invisible mortality risks in predator-prey metacommunities.  Ecology.  93:281-293.

Abrams, P. A. 2012. Predator-prey models. Chapter in Encyclopedia of Theoretical Ecology. A. Hastings and L. J. Gross, eds. U. California Press pp. 587-594.

Abrams, P. A. 2012. The eco-evolutionary responses of a generalist consumer to resource competition. Evolution. 66:3130-3143.

Abrams, P. A., C. M. Tucker, and B. N. Gilbert. 2013. Evolution of the storage effect. Evolution. 67:315-327.

Matsuda, H. and P. A. Abrams 2013. Is feedback control effective for ecosystem-based fisheries management? Journal of Theoretical Biology 339:122-128.

Giacomini, H., D. T. de Kerckhove,  B. J. Shuter, and P. A. Abrams. 2013. Does consumption rate scale superlinearly? Nature. 493:E1-E2.

Abrams, P.A. 2014.  How precautionary is the policy governing the Antarctic toothfish (Dissostichus mawsoni) fishery? Antarctic Science. 26:3-13.

Abrams, P. A.  2014. The evolutionary and behavioral modification of consumer responses to environmental change. Journal of Theoretical Biology. 343: 162-173.

Abrams, P. A. 2015. Why ratio dependence is (still) a bad general model of predation.  Biological Reviews. 90:794-814. 

de Kerckhove, D. T. , S. Milne, B. J. Shuter, and P. A. Abrams. 2015. Ideal gas model describes movement and school formation in a pelagic freshwater fish. Behavioral Ecology. 26:1236-1247.

de Kerckhove, D. T., A. Richards, B. J. Shuter, Cruz-Font, L. and P. A. Abrams. 2015. Wind on lakes brings predator and prey together in the pelagic zone. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Science. 72:1652-1662.

Abrams, P. A. and M. H. Cortez. 2015 The many potential interactions between predators that share competing prey. Ecological Monographs. 85:625-641.

Abrams, P. A. and M. H. Cortez. 2015. Is Competition Needed for Ecological Character Displacement?  Does Displacement Decrease Competition? Evolution. 69:3039-3053.

Abrams, P. A. 2015. What are hydra effects? A response to Schröder et al. Trends in Ecology and Evolution. 30:178-179.

Cortez, M. H. and P. A. Abrams. 2016. Hydra effects in stable communities and their implications for system dynamics. Ecology. 97:1135-1145.

Abrams, P. A., D. G. Ainley, L. K. Blight, P. K. Dayton, J. H. Eastman, and J. L. Jacquet. 2016. Necessary elements of precautionary management: implications for the Antarctic toothfish. Fish and Fisheries. 17:1152-1174.

Abrams, P.A. 2016. Paradoxical Effects and Interactions in Food Webs: A Commentary on Nilsson and McCann.  Theoretical Ecology 9:513-517.

Brooks, C., Ainley, D., Abrams, P., Dayton, P. K., Hofman, R. J., Jaquet, J. and Siniff, D. B.  2018. Watch over Antarctic waters. Nature 558:177-180.

Abrams, P. A. 2018. Review of ‘Adaptive Food Webs’, J. C. Moore, P. C. de Ruiter, K. S. McCann, and V. Wolters eds. Cambridge Univ. Press.  Quarterly Review of Biology 93:371.

Abrams, P. A. 2019. Foraging behavior as a cornerstone of population and community ecology.  chapter in J. Choe, ed., Encyclopedia of Animal Behaviour, 2nd ed. Academic Press. New York. pp. 201-208.

Abrams, P. A. 2019. How does the evolution of universal ecological traits affect population size: Lessons from simple models. American Naturalist 193:814-829.

Day, T. and P. A. Abrams. 2020. Williams’ hypothesis and models for the evolution of senescence.  Trends in Ecology and Evolution. 35:300-302.

Ainley, D.G., Cziko, P. A., Nur, N., Rotella,  J.J., Eastman, J. T., LaRue, M., Stirling, I., and Abrams, P. A. 2021. Further evidence that Antarctic Toothfish are important to Weddell Seals. Antarctic Science. 33:17-29.  DOI: 10.1017/S0954102020000437.

Matsuda, H., P. A. Abrams and T. Katsukawa. 2021. Multispecies fisheries management.  pp. 289-308, Chapter 18 in H. Matsuda (ed.) Ecological Risk Management for Conservation Biology and Ecotoxicology. Springer. Singapore.

Abrams, P. A. 2022.  Food web functional responses. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution.  DOI: 103389/fevo.2022.984384

Abrams, P. A. 2022. Competition Theory in Ecology. Oxford University Press.