Ecosystem Engineering

Insects have the capacity to alter environmental conditions dramatically. In addition to changing vegetation structure, they alter the rate and direction of energy and material flows through ecosystems and landscapes. In some cases, this may be a useful tool for accomplishing management objectives in natural ecosystems. Fire increasingly is recognized as an integral component of many ecosystems and is being used, or allowed to burn freely, to maintain ecosystem conditions. Although still controversial, insect outbreaks under some circumstances could be viewed as contributing to the maintenance or restoration of ecosystem conditions (Figs. 15.6-15.8), including stimulation of nutrient fluxes, and might be allowed to run their course. This action would require the cooperation of various land management agencies responsible for the affected, and surrounding, landscape.

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