Introduction

Interrelations among ecosystem components and processes can be subdivided into direct (i.e., those which are restricted to the direct effect of one component/process on another, and are attributable to an explicit direct transaction of energy and/or matter between the components in question) and indirect (i.e., those that do not comply with the above restriction). The history ofnatural sciences is inseparable from the gradually increasing awareness and understanding of indirect effects. By nineteenth century the significance of indirect interactions was well realized, and was (sometimes implicitly) accounted for in the classic studies of Darwin, Dokuchaiev, Gumboldt, Engels, and many other scientists. In the twentieth century, however, appreciation of indirect effects in nature received considerable acceleration, predominantly due to the accumulating interdisciplinary knowledge of natural ecosystems, the development of appropriate mathematical techniques, and the urgent necessity to resolve the growing problems of environmental damage, resulting, ironically, from the uncurbed expansion of the human population backed by the advances of the technological progress. It should also be noted that the boost of the growing appreciation of indirect effects in twentieth century was partly initiated by Vernadsky's fundamental theories about the 'biosphere', the 'noosphere', and interrelations between biota and geochemical cycling. Popularization of these views 50 years later (e.g., by Lovelock's Gaia theory) stimulated investigations of indirect effects even further.

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