Homeostasis in Contemporary Ecological Research

The term homeostasis is not as widely used in an ecological context as it once was. Contemporary ecological research has shifted from referring to the stability of system properties as homeostasis. Instead, ecosystems exhibiting homeostatic tendencies are often referred to as stable, having high resilience, being in a steady state, or exhibiting an equilibrium. While the term homeostasis is less utilized, many of the concepts related to homeostasis are still important in basic and applied ecology. For example, the role of biodiversity and compensatory dynamics in maintaining ecosystem properties is a central topic of research in community ecology. In addition to the change in how homeostasis is referred to, other concepts related to homeostasis are also referred to using alternative terminology. Zero-sum dynamics, for example, is a recently introduced term used to refer to the constraints imposed by limiting resources on ecological communities. Specifically, zero-sum dynamics refer to the fact that usage of some limiting resource is a zero-sum game - that is, any increase must be balanced by decreases so that the sum of all changes is equal to zero. This results in the stabilization of many system properties and operates in the same manner as discussed above in the section titled 'Stabilizing effects of limiting resources'. Regardless of the terminology being used, it is important to remember that these terms are all referring to similar phenomena - the ability of ecological systems to maintain system-level properties despite perturbations to the system - and that the concepts embodied in homeostasis are central to our ability to understand how ecological systems function through time and respond to their changing environment.

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