Controversial Name

A simple definition of ecological engineering is "to use ecological processes within natural or constructed imitations of natural systems to achieve engineering goals" (Teal, 1991). Thus, ecosystems are designed, constructed, and operated to solve environmental problems otherwise addressed by conventional technology. The contention is that ecological engineering is a new approach to both ecology and engineering which justifies a new name. However, because these are old, established disciplines, some controversy has arisen from both directions. On one hand, the term ecological engineering is controversial to ecologists who are suspicious of the engineering method, which sometimes generates as many problems as it solves. Examples of this concern can be seen in the titles of books that have critiqued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' water management projects: Muddy Water (Maass, 1951), Dams and Other Disasters (Morgan, 1971), The River Killers (Heuvelmans, 1974), The Flood Control Controversy (Leopold and Maddock, 1954), and The Corps and the Shore (Pilkey and Dixon, 1996). In the past, ecologists and engineers have not always shared a common view of nature and, because of this situation, an adversarial relationship has evolved. Ecologists have sometimes been said to be afflicted with "physics envy" (Cohen, 1971; Egler, 1986), because of their desire to elevate the powers of explanation and prediction about ecosystems to a level comparable to that achieved by physicists for the nonliving, physical world. However, even though engineers, like physicists, have achieved great powers of physical explanation and prediction, no ecologist has ever been said to have exhibited "engineering envy."

On the other hand, the name of ecological engineering is controversial to engineers who are hesitant about creating a new engineering profession based on an approach that relies so heavily on the "soft" science of ecology and that lacks the quantitative rigor, precision, and control characteristic of most engineering. Some engineers might also dismiss ecological engineering as a kind of subset of the existing field of environmental engineering, which largely uses conventional technology to solve environmental problems. Hall (1995a) described the situation presented by ecological engineering as follows: "This is a very different attitude from that of most conventional engineering, which seeks to force its design onto nature, and from much of conventional ecology, which seeks to protect nature from any human impact." Finally, M. G. Wolman may have summed up the controversy best, during a plenary presentation to a stream restoration conference, by suggesting that ecological engineering is a kind of oxymoron in combining two disciplines that are somewhat contradictory.

The challenge for ecologists and engineers alike is to break down the stereotypes of ecology and engineering and to combine the strengths of both disciplines. By using a "design with nature" philosophy and by taking the best of both worlds, ecological engineering seeks to develop a new paradigm for environmental problem solving. Many activities are already well developed in restoration ecology, appropriate technology, and bioengineering which are creating new designs for the benefit of man and nature. Ecological engineering unites many of these applications into one discipline with similar principles and methods.

The idea of ecological engineering was introduced by H. T. Odum. He first used the term community engineering, where community referred to the ecological community or set of interacting species in an ecosystem, in an early paper on microcosms (H. T. Odum and Hoskin, 1957). This reference dealt with the design of new sets of species for specific purposes. The best early summary of his ideas was presented as a chapter in his first book on energy systems theory (H. T. Odum, 1971). This chapter outlines many of the agendas of ecological engineering that are suggested by the headings used to organize the writing (Table 1.1). Thirty years later, this chapter is perhaps still the best single source on principles of ecological engineering. H. T. Odum pioneered ecological engineering by adapting ecological theory for applied purposes. He carried out major ecosystem design experiments at Port Aransas, Texas (H. T. Odum et al., 1963); Morehead City, North Carolina (H. T. Odum, 1985, 1989); and Gainesville, Florida (Ewel and H. T. Odum, 1984), the latter two of which involved introduction of domestic sewage into wetlands. He synthesized the use of microcosms (Beyers and H. T. Odum, 1993) and developed an accounting system for environmental decision making (H. T. Odum, 1996). Models of ecologically engineered systems are included throughout this book in the "energy circuit language" which H. T. Odum developed. This is a symbolic modeling language (Figure 1.1) that embodies thermodynamic constraints and mathematical equivalents for simulation (Gilliland and Risser, 1977; Hall et al., 1977; H. T. Odum, 1972, 1983; H. T. Odum and E. C. Odum, 2000).

William Mitsch, one of H. T. Odum's students, is now leading the development of ecological engineering. He has strived to outline the dimensions of the field

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