Ecological economic systems analysis: order and chaos

  • Robert Costanza


Systems analysis is the study of systems, groups of interacting, interdependent parts linked together by complex exchanges of energy, matter, and information. There is a key distinction between ‘classical’ science and system science. Classical (or reductionist) science is based on the resolution of phenomena into isolatable causal trains and the search for basic, ‘atomic’ units or parts of the system. Classical science depends on weak or non-exsistent interaction between parts and essentially linear relations among the parts, so that the parts can be added together to give the behaviour of the whole. These conditions are not met in the entities called systems. A ‘system’ is characterized by strong (usually non-linear) interactions between the parts, feedbacks (making resolution into isolatable causal trains difficult or impossible) and the inability to simply ‘add-up’ small-scale behaviour to arrive at large-scale results (von Bertalanffy, 1968). Ecological and economic systems obviously exhibit these characteristics of systems, and are not well understood using the methods of classical, reductionist science.


Network Analysis Ecosystem Model Precautionary Principle Scientific Uncertainty Performance Bond 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Allen, T.F.H. and Starr, T.B. (1982) Hierarchy. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.Google Scholar
  2. Ayres, R.U. and Kneese, A.V. (1969) Production, consumption and externalities. American Economic Review, 59, 282–97.Google Scholar
  3. Barber, M., Patten, B. and Finn, J. (1979) Review and Evaluation of I-O Flow Analysis for Ecological Applications, in: Compartmental Analysis of Ecosystem Models, Vol 10 of Statistical Ecology, (eds J. Matis, B. Patten and G. White), International Cooperative Publishing House, Bertonsville, Md.Google Scholar
  4. Bohm, P. (1981) Deposit-Refund Systems, Resources for the Future, Inc., The John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.Google Scholar
  5. Cole, H.S.D., Freeman, C. Jahoda, M. and Pavitt, K.L.R. (eds.) (1973) Models of Doom: a Critique of the Limits to Growth, Universe Books, New York, NY.Google Scholar
  6. Colwell, R.K. (1974) Predictability, constancy, and contingency of periodic phenomena. Ecology, 55, 1148–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Costanza, R. and Hannon, B.M. (1989) Dealing with the ‘mixed units’ problem in ecosystem network analysis, in: Network Analysis of Marine Ecosystems: Methods and Applications (eds F. Wulff, J.G. Field, and K.H. Mann), Coastal and Estuarine Studies Series, Springer-Verlag, Heidleberg, pp. 90–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Costanza, R., and Neill, C. (1984) Energy intensities, interdependence, and value in ecological systems: A linear programming approach. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 106, 41–57CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Costanza, R. and Perrings, C. (1990) A flexible assurance bonding system for improved environmental management. Ecological Economics, 2, 57–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Costanza, R., and Sklar, F.H. (1985) Articulation, accuracy, and effectiveness of mathematical models: A review of freshwater wetland applications. Ecological Modelling, 27, 45–68CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Costanza, R., Sklar, F.H. and White, M.L. (1990) Modeling coastal landscape dynamics. Bioscience, 40, 91–107CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cumberland, J.H. (1987) Need economic development be hazardous to the health of the Chesapeake Bay? Marine Resource Economics, 4, 81–93.Google Scholar
  13. Daly, H. (1968) On economics as a life science. Journal of Political Economy, 76, 392–406.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Ehrlich, P.R. and Holdren, J.P. (1988) The Cassandra Conference: Resources and the Human Predicament, Texas A and M University Press, College Station TX.Google Scholar
  15. Finn, J. (1976) The Cycling Index. J. Theo. Biology, 56, 363–73CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fogleman, Valerie M. (1987) Worst case analysis: A continued requirement under the National Environmental Policy Act? Columbia Journal of Environmental Law, 13, 53.Google Scholar
  17. Forrester, J.W. (1961) Industrial Dynamics. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.Google Scholar
  18. Funderlic, R and Heath, M. (1971) Linear Compartmental Analysis of Ecosystems, Oak Ridge Natl Lab, ORNL-IBP-71-4.Google Scholar
  19. Funtowicz, S.O. and Ravetz, J.R. (1991) A new scientific methodology for global environmental problems, in: Ecological Economics: The Science and Management of Sustainability, (ed. R. Costanza), Columbia University Press, New York, pp. 137–52.Google Scholar
  20. Hannon, B. (1973) The structure of ecosystems. J. Theo. Biology, 41, 535–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hannon, B. (1976) Marginal product pricing in the ecosystem. J. Theo. Biology, 56, 256–67.Google Scholar
  22. Hannon, B. (1979) Total energy costs in ecosystems. J. Theo. Biology, 80, 271–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hannon, B. (1985a) Ecosystem flow analysis. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 213, in Ecological Theory for Biological Oceanography (eds R. Ulanowicz and T. Platt), pp. 97–118.Google Scholar
  24. Hannon, B. (1985b) Conditioning the ecosystem. Mathematical Biology, 75, 23–42.Google Scholar
  25. Hannon, B. (1985c), Linear dynamic ecosystems. J. Theo. Biology, 116, 89–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hett, J and O’Neill, R. (1971) Systems Analysis of the Aleut Ecosystem. US-IBP, Deciduous Forest Biome Memo Report, 71–16, September.Google Scholar
  27. Innis, G. (1978) Grassland Simulation Model, Ecology studies No. 26, Springer-Verlag, New York.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Isard, W. (1972) Ecologic-Economic Analysis for Regional Development. The Free Press, New York.Google Scholar
  29. Leontief, W. (1941) The Structure of American Economy, 1919–1939, Oxford University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  30. Levins, R. (1966) The strategy of model building in population biology. American Scientist, 54, 421–31.Google Scholar
  31. Mandelbrot, B.B. (1977) Fractals. Form, Chance and Dimension. W.H. Freeman and Co., San Francisco, CA.Google Scholar
  32. Mandelbrot, B.B. (1983) The Fractal Geometry of Nature, W.H. Freeman and Co., San Francisco, CA.Google Scholar
  33. Meadows, D.H., Meadows, D.L., Randers, J. and Behrens, W.W. (1972) The Limits to Growth, Universe, New York.Google Scholar
  34. Meadows, D.H., Meadows, D.L. and Randers, J. (1992) Beyond the Limits: Confronting Global Collapse, Envisioning a Sustainable Future, Chelsea Green, Post Mills, VT.Google Scholar
  35. Mesarovic, M. and Pestel, E. (1974) Mankind at the Turning Point: the Second Report to the Club of Rome, Dutton, New York, NYGoogle Scholar
  36. Norgaard, R.B. (1989) The case for methodological pluralism. Ecological Economics, 1, 37–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Odum, H.T. (1971) Environment, Power and Society, John Wiley, New York, NYGoogle Scholar
  38. Oltmans, W.L. (1974) On Growth, Capricorn, New York.Google Scholar
  39. O’Neill, R.V., DeAngelis, D.L., Waide, J.B. and Allen, T.F.H. (1986) A Hierarchial Concept of Ecosystems, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.Google Scholar
  40. Patten, B.C. (1971–1976) Systems Analyses and Simulation in Ecology, Vols. 1–4. Academic Press, New York, NY.Google Scholar
  41. Perrings, C. (1991) Reserved rationality and the precautionary principle: Technological change, time and uncertainty in environmental decision making, in: Ecological Economics: the Science and Management of Sustainability, (ed. R. Costanza), Columbia University Press, New York, pp. 153–66.Google Scholar
  42. Peskin, Henry M. (1991) Alternative environmental and resource accounting approaches, in: Ecological Economics: the Science and Management of Sustainability, (ed R. Costanza), Columbia University Press, New York, pp. 176–93.Google Scholar
  43. Pestel, E. (1989) Beyond the Limits to Growth: a Report to the Club of Rome, Universe Books, New York, NY.Google Scholar
  44. Potter, G.L., Ellsaesser, H.W., MacCracken, M.C. and Luther, F.M. (1979) Performance of the Lawerce Livermore Laboratory zonal atmospheric model, in: Report of the JOC Study Conference on Climate Models: Performance, Intercomparison and Sensitivity Studies, (ed. W.L. Gates), Global Atmospheric Research Programme Series No. 22, Washington, DC, pp 852–71.Google Scholar
  45. PRC Environmental Management. (1986) Performance Bonding. A final report prepared for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Waste Programs and Enforcement, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  46. Rapport, D.J. (1989) What constitutes ecosystem health? Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 33, 120–32.Google Scholar
  47. Rosser, J.B. (1991) From Catastrophe to Chaos: A general theory of economic discontinuities, Kluwer, Dordrecht.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Schlesinger, M.E. and Zhao, Z.C. (1989) Seasonal climatic changes induced by doubled CO2 as simulated by the OSU atmospheric GCM/mixed-layer ocean model. Journal of Climate, 2, 463–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Thompson, P.B. (1986) Uncertainty arguments in environmental issues. Environmental Ethics, 8, 59–76.Google Scholar
  50. von Bertalanffy, L. (1950) An outline of general system theory. Brit. J. Philos. Sci., 1, 139–64.Google Scholar
  51. von Bertalanffy, L. (1968) General System Theory: Foundations, Development, Applications, George Braziller, New York, NY.Google Scholar
  52. Von Neumann, J. and Morgenstern, O. (1953) Theory of Games and Economic Behavior, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.Google Scholar
  53. Ulanowicz, R.E. (1980) An hypothesis on the development of natural communities. J. Theor. Biol. 85, 223–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Ulanowicz, R.E. (1986) Growth and Development: Ecosystems Phenomenology. Springer-Verlag, NY.Google Scholar
  55. Washington, W.M. and Williamson, D.L. (1977) A description of the NCAR global circulation models, in: Methods in Comp. Physics Vol II, General Circulation Models of the Atmosphere, (ed. J. Chang), Academic Press, New York, pp. 111–72.Google Scholar
  56. Weinberg, A.M. (1985) Science and its limits: the regulator’s dilemma. Issues in Science and Technology, 2, 59–73.Google Scholar
  57. Williams, J., Barry, R.G. and Washington, W.M. (1974) Simulation of the atmospheric circulation using the NCAR global circulation model with ice age boundary conditions. J. Applied Met. 11, 305–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Wulff, F., Field, J.G. and Mann, K.H. (1989) Network Analysis of Marine Ecosystems: Methods and Applications. Coastal and Estuarine Studies Series, Springer-Verlag, Heidleberg.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert Costanza

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations