The Ecosystem Perspective
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Although Tansley (1935) is credited with the name, and often with the concept, of ecosystems, the concept of a higher level of organization had been forcing itself to the attention of biologists for many years (Möbius 1877; Forbes 1887; Lotka 1925). Another manifestation was the concept of the superorganism, which was given various interpretations, proponents applying it to anything from a termite colony to the landscape. What survives is the idea of a hierarchy of levels of integration. The term, superorganism, turned out to be an unfortunate one, as it implied specific kinds of organization that are not present beyond the species population. Controls that involve population genetics and natural selection end at the species level. This spills over into community organization, in a sense, through coevolution, but the genetics are still those of interbreeding populations of the individual species. We observe significant homeostasis at the ecosystem level, but it must be understood in terms of the processes of the component populations in their physical and chemical environment. A major thrust of ecosystem studies at this time is to understand in an integrated way the response of communities to their environment, and how this results in the resilience shown by most ecosystems.
KeywordsEmergent Property Sensory Experience Species Population Island Biogeography Ecosystem Study
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