Freshwater Ecosystems: A Perspective

  • James E. Schindler
Conference paper
Part of the Ecological Studies book series (ECOLSTUD, volume 67)


Present day ecosystem ecology is founded on the premise that behaviors of homogeneous landscape units (ecosystems) can be adequately characterized by a few “emergent properties” that are generated by biotic energy flows and material cycles (E. P. Odum 1983). This approach also assumes that behaviors of local ecological systems converge into distinct regional ecosystem patterns that are deterministically generated by interactions of biota with their environment. This popular “black box” approach to the study of ecosystems apparently evolved from the uniformitarianist views of James Hutton (1795) (see Simpson 1970). These views, advanced by Playfair (1802), and fully expressed by Lyell (1830–1833) contain both a method (research technique) and a system (an all-embracing theory) of research (Hallam 1983). Lyell and Darwin advanced uniformity as a methodological postulate that reinforced the notion that scientists should work with small-scale events since they can be seen and investigated. The assumption that natural laws are spatially and temporally invariant is also a part of the uniformitarian method. For example, Darwin used artificial selection by animal breeders and small differences in geographic variation of species’ races as observable examples of evolution (Gould 1986). In the same way, paleolimnologists compare nutrient and pH requirements of plankton in modern lakes with stratigraphic analyses of lake sediment cores to generate a composite picture of lake ontogeny (Rymer 1978).


Natural Enemy Freshwater Ecosystem Turnover Time Ruderal Species Lake Sediment Core 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • James E. Schindler

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