• Frank E. Egler
Part of the Springer Series on Environmental Management book series (SSEM)


Half a century ago, Tansley loosed the word ecosystem on an unsuspecting and unprepared world of biologists. Tho he defined it as an integrated unit composed not only of plants and animals, but also the climate, soil and other aspects of the environment (but not man), the idea was ahead of its time. A decade later, I applied the concept to Vegetation (the integrated mosaic of plant-communities in time and space). Since then, the subject has met with many vicissitudes. On the one hand, theoreticians have seen only the theory, yet fail to grasp its essential nature by identifying the larger social holons with the only wholes they know: their own individuality, and their own species Homo sapiens. On the other hand, the ecolometricians of the present have made ecosystem analysis fashionable by applying their highly developed numeracy (the quantitative analogue of literacy) to studying the parts, not the wholes. One character has compared this behavior to that of an intelligent young boy taking the family grandfather clock all apart, and diligently describing each weight and wheel, and even the interrelationships between them. But the whole clock remains to him a vitalistic, mystical, occult, spiritualistic, subjective, qualitative thing, unworthy of elegant scientific interest. Biologist William Morton Wheeler, General Ian Christiaan Smuts, and the Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin knew differently, even as philosopher Bertrand Russell, himself a mathematician, could frame the interests of scientists as philosophic “logicism”.


Landscape Ecology Natural Area Concise View Adolescent Habitat Stump Sprout 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Frank E. Egler
    • 1
  1. 1.Aton ForestNorfolkUSA

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