In this chapter we have discussed the role of destructive processes for ecosystem dynamics. After some examples of destructive events on the organism scale, the population scale and the ecosystem scale, and after a general integration of the disturbance concept into the orientor model, it is shown that especially mature states can suffer from the high risk of reduced adaptability. Therefore, breakdown is the consequent reaction if the living conditions of a community change strongly. Thereafter, new potentials can be realized and the orientor behavior will start again with renewed site conditions. Adopting this argumentation, natural disturbances seem to be crucial for the long-term self-organization, for the ecological creativity, and for the long-term integrity of ecological entities. Destructive processes are focal components of the overall ecosystem adaptability, and they can be found on all relevant scales.
If we follow the ecosystem-based argumentation that integrity and health are relevant variables for ecological evaluation, the potential for self-organizing processes becomes a key variable in environmental management. It is strictly related to the long-term ecosystem adaptability and its buffer capacity. Therefore, human disturbances in fact intervene the natural dynamics: They operate on artificial spatio-temporal scales, they introduce novel qualities and quantities of change, they modify the reception mechanisms of the ecosystems, they often reduce ecosystem adaptability, and—as shown in the case study—they set new constraints for successional pathways, thus suppressing the natural dynamics.
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