A. Management of Crop, Forest, and Urban "Pests"
B. Conservation/Restoration Ecology
C. Indicators of Environmental Conditions
D. Ecosystem Engineering
IV. Critical Issues
THE STUDY OF INSECT ECOLOGY TRADITIONALLY ADDRESSED INSECT adaptations to their environment, including interactions with other organisms, and effects on plant growth and vegetation structure. Insects represent the full scope of heterotrophic strategies, from sessile species whose ecological strategies resemble those of plants to social insects whose range of behavioral attributes is more like that of advanced vertebrates. The variety of insect interactions with other species spans the range of ecological complexity and often brings them to the attention of natural resource managers as pests, biological control agents, or key pollinators or seed dispersers of endangered plants. Three of the four sections in this book emphasize this traditional approach to the study of insect ecology.
However, this traditional focus on species adaptations and community interactions does not portray the full scope of insect ecology. Whereas the evolutionary perspective emphasizes insect responses to environmental conditions, as demonstrated by adaptive physiology, behavior, and interspecific interactions, the ecosystem perspective emphasizes feedbacks between organisms and their environment. Insects, as well as other organisms, influence their environment in complex, and often dramatic, ways. The foraging pattern of any organism affects its interactions with other organisms and the resulting distribution of resources. Population outbreaks of some herbivorous insects can reshape vegetation structure and alter biogeochemical cycles and local or regional climate. Natural selection represents a major feedback between ecosystem conditions and individual attributes that affect ecosystem parameters. Other feedback mechanisms between individuals, populations, and communities can stabilize or destabilize ecosystem, landscape, and global processes. Understanding these feedbacks is critical to prediction of ecosystem responses to environmental changes. Phytophages dramatically alter the structure of landscapes and potentially stabilize primary production and other processes affecting global climate and biogeo-chemistry (Chapter 12). Termites account for substantial portions of carbon flux in some ecosystems (Chapter 14). Section IV, dealing with feedbacks between insects and ecosystem properties, is the unique contribution of this book. This chapter summarizes key ecological issues, synthesizes key integrating variables, describes applications, and identifies critical issues for future study.
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