The scope of this book is to demonstrate that we do have an ecosystem theory that can be used to describe ecosystem structure and function. It was previously shown in the book, Integration of Ecosystem Theories: A Pattern (3rd edition, 2002), that the various contributions to systems ecology are consistent and together form a pattern of ecological processes. My book with Yuri Svirezhev, Toward a Thermodynamic Theory of Ecosystems (2004), presented the thermodynamics of this pattern in a mathematical language. This book, A New Ecology: Systems Perspective, shows that the basic properties of ecosystems (presented in Chapters 2-7) lead to or are consistent with ten tentative propositions for ecosystems (Chapter 10), which can be used to explain ecological observations (Chapter 8). An ecosystem theory is a prerequisite for wider application of ecological sciences in environmental management because with the theory it becomes feasible to guide conservation or environmental management. Chapter 9 shows how the presented ecosystem theory can be applied to assess ecosystem health, a facet of environmental management. A thermody-namic interpretation of the evolution is under preparation in my other book with Yuri Svirezhev, A Thermodynamic Theory of the Evolution, with expected publication in 2007 or early in 2008. The three books Toward a Thermodynamic Theory of Ecosystems, this book A New Ecology: Systems Perspective, and the coming one, A Thermodynamic Theory of the Evolution form a troika that presents a useful ecological theory.
This book has nine authors. The basic outline of the book was formulated during a one-week brainstorming meeting on the Danish island of Mon in June 2005. All nine authors have written parts of the book and have reviewed the contributions of the other authors. The book is therefore a joint effort resulting from close teamwork. I am the first author because the idea to produce a book about ecosystem theory and systems ecology was initiated by me based on a brainstorming meeting with system ecologists. I edited this book with Brian Fath after all the authors had exchanged ideas and reviewed the ten chapters. Brian Fath is therefore considered the second editor of the book. Bai Lian Li (Larry) participated in the brainstorming meeting in Mon and he contributed significantly to the outline of ideas making up the final book. However, due to his engagement with the Eco-summit 2007 in China, he was unable to contribute written material for the book. He is, however, working on a Chinese edition of the book, which we all consider of great importance as China during the last few years has shown an increased interest in environmental problems. This Chinese interest for environmentally sound management is expected to accelerate in the coming years, which makes a Chinese edition of this book even more important. Bernie Patten and Enzo Tiezzi were unable to attend the brain-storming meeting, but they both contributed written material and comments on the chapters (Photos 1 and 2).
Using my 2004 Stockholm Water Prize, I established a foundation to promote ecosystem theory and integrated environmental assessment. The Foundation's grants support brainstorming meetings and travel particularly for young scientists focusing on system ecology, ecological modelling, and lake management. The foundation is named "William
Williams' and Milan Straskraba's Foundation" after two of my close scientist friends who passed away in 2002 and 2000. William Williams has contributed significantly to integrated lake management and Milan Straskraba has played a major role in system ecology in the last two decades of the 20th century. The nine authors express their appreciation to the foundation for the support that has made it possible to publish this book in the hope that it will enhance a wider application of ecosystem theory in ecology to explain observations and to facilitate ecological sound conservation and environmental management.
Sven Erik J0rgensen Copenhagen, July 2006
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