Ecosystem Subunits

In the construction of greenhouse ecosystems, subunit installation can be utilized. However, it would be impossible to individually extract and emplace the tens to hundreds of species amounting to hundreds to millions of individuals that occur in these subunits. Installation of sub-blocks of wild ecosystem includes the microspecies and keeps their relationships intact. For example, soil blocks, or in the marine or aquatic habitat, mud or rock blocks, can be introduced into the preexisting physical/ chemical elements of the model ecosystem.

Repeated efforts must be taken to install rock, soil, mud, or 'planktonic blocks'. These injections should be periodically carried out during system stocking; at completion of development, they should be followed by several final injections. The process of cutting out, or otherwise extracting, an ecological block or ecosystem subunit and transporting it to the waiting model can be stressful to the community of organisms within the block. Even in the model, the block meets conditions that at least initially consist of the raw physical/chemical environment unameliorated by the effects of a functioning community of organisms. The first block injections are likely to lose species. However, with each addition, the diversity of reproductively successful species increases.

All ecological communities are patchy. An island, coral reef, a large salt marsh, a field, even a forest, all differ from place to place. Chance factors of organism settlement, negative and positive interaction between species, the local effect of environment, and real differences of environment (wave exposure, current, etc.) all lead to patchiness within a community. The model itself, no matter how accurate, is a patch, or several patches, that the modeler hopes represents a 'mean' of most wild patches.

Figure 4 Salt marsh community 1 year after establishment of the Florida Everglades mesocosm. Young white mangrove tree to left. After 5 years of self-organization the system followed a succession to a white mangrove/buttonwood swamp.

After the structuring elements are established, and the entire pool of available species from the type community given a chance at immigration into the model, the model will self-organize. In the form of the genetic codes of its constituent species, the ecosystem carries a tremendous quantity of information with regard to its structure and function. Particularly since we know and understand only a small part of this information, we should be loath to subvert ecosystem self-organization (Figure 4).

Care in adhering to wild density levels will help prevent overstocking, overgrazing, and overpredation until the model is better understood. Single members of species guilds can be selected to perform a function, and thus reproductive density is achieved without exceeding ecosystem density requirements. In general, the larger the population of any single species, the more likely it is that breeding success will be achieved.

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