The trophic-dynamic concept of ecology, which focuses on the flow of energy through the ecosystem, has gained a great deal from the development of new experimental techniques as mentioned above, and not least from the availability of computer science and power. The application of bio-mathematics and systems theory has led to the development of the field of systems ecology, which studies the function of ecological structures and thus the dynamics of the ecosystems. Each ecosystem possesses a number of structured interrelationships between its physical constituents such as soil, water, and nutrients on the one hand, and producers, consumers, and decomposers on the other. The creation of complex dynamic models within this discipline has provided the ability to predict future dynamics of aquatic ecosystems.
From a human point of view, it has long been important to be able to compute the potential harvestable production of a biological resource, that is, the number of individuals that can be sustainably harvested from a population without affecting long-term stability. For example, this could be the tonnage of cod that can be harvested in a particular sea area. If the harvestable amount is beyond the 'natural' mortality of the popula tion, it is obviously not sustainable - meaning the population will sooner or later decline, and this will most likely have negative effects on the populations of other species in the system. There are many examples of this type of mismanagement, and their disastrous effects on entire ecosystems. The understanding of the underlying principles of the dynamics of populations of aquatic organisms is essential for the development of sustainable harvest strategies of the various bioresources mankind wishes to extract from aquatic ecosystems.
The use of statistical procedures and the application of computer science to mathematical models based on data obtained from the field provide new insights into population interactions and ecosystem function. Such analyses also play an important role in conservation biology which allows predictions of the long-term probability of the success of a species in a given habitat like a nature reserve or a protected area.
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