The Future

'Ecological informatics' methods are not restricted or limited to the main purpose they were developed for, they can achieve more. It all depends on the imagination of the researcher and possibilities increased by hybridizing related methods in ecological informatics/modeling.

Where will this bring us - how much closer to our understanding of ecological systems.? This is something that will be answered probably by the next generation of researchers, not by the ones who developed or first applied them in ecology but by those born in the age of personal computers, with higher interrelation to computers, who will find new approaches with a new way of looking at nature and machines.

'Ecological informatics' presents a new option or approach on modeling ecological systems. This approach has been growing in the last decade but much has yet to be accomplished. It is not the purpose that ecoinformatics methods displace traditional methods, but they present

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Figure 4 Prey catch by the artificial animal from starting time with a random walk and through learning stage.

another point of view in getting insight into future ecological systems.

In this scenario, 'ecological informatics' has a potential for growing as fast in ecological applications as bioinfor-matics grew in studies at cell or individual scale. It is not predictable, however, to what an extent and how 'ecological informatics' will evolve during the next decades. It will be certainly influenced by advances in computer science, but only our ability to deal with increasingly complex ecological problems will foster 'ecological informatics' as an independent discipline.

In fact, when new technologies or new methods are developed, their application to existing disciplines is usually regarded as a spinoff that may define a subdiscipline, and this is the present state of 'ecological informatics'. However, when a subdiscipline gains enough momentum as to become widely accepted by nonspecia-lists, it eventually flows back into the mainstream discipline, thus broadening its scope. We hope this will be the destiny of 'ecological informatics'.

See also: Abundance Biomass Comparison Method; Adaptive Agents; Animal Defense Strategies; Artificial Neural Networks; Cellular Automata; Ecological Complexity; Ecological Informatics: Overview; Ecosystem Health Indicators; Empirical Models; Evolutionary Algorithms; Individual-Based Models; Learning; Multilayer Perceptron; Orientation, Navigation, and Searching; River Models.

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