Ecology Is Changing

As a consequence of the changing paradigm direction of environmental management. we need to focus on ecosystem ecology. An ecosystem is according to the Millennium Report (2003) defined as "a dynamic complex of plants. animals and microorganism communities and the nonliving environment. interacting as a functional unit. Humans are an integral part of ecosystems."

A well-defined ecosystem has strong interactions among its components and weak interactions across its boundaries. A useful ecosystem boundary is the place where a number of discontinuities coincide for instance in the distribution of organism, soil type, drainage basin or depth in a water body. At a larger scale, regional and even globally distributed ecosystems can be evaluated based on a commonality of basic structural units.

Three questions are fundamental to pursue for ecosystem-based environmental management:

I: What are the underlying ecosystem properties that can explain their response to perturbations and human interventions?

II: Are we able to formulate at least building blocks of an ecosystem theory in the form of useful propositions about processes and properties? We prefer the word "propositions" and not laws because ecosystem dynamics are so complex that universal laws give way to contextual propensities. The propositions capture these general tendencies of ecosystem properties and processes that can be applied to understand the very nature of ecosystems, including their response to human impacts. III: Is the ecosystem theory that we can formulate to understand ecosystem properties sufficiently developed to be able to explain ecological observations with practical application for environmental management?

The scope of the book is an attempt to answer these questions to the extent that is currently possible. The authors of this book have realized that an ecosystem theory is a prerequisite for wider application of ecological sciences in environmental management because theory provides a strong guide for environmental management and resource conservation.

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