Self-Organization in Complex Ecosystems. (MPB-42)

Self-Organization in Complex Ecosystems. (MPB-42)

Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 392
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  • Book Info
    Self-Organization in Complex Ecosystems. (MPB-42)
    Book Description:

    Can physics be an appropriate framework for the understanding of ecological science? Most ecologists would probably agree that there is little relation between the complexity of natural ecosystems and the simplicity of any example derived from Newtonian physics. Though ecologists have long been interested in concepts originally developed by statistical physicists and later applied to explain everything from why stock markets crash to why rivers develop particular branching patterns, applying such concepts to ecosystems has remained a challenge.

    Self-Organization in Complex Ecosystemsis the first book to clearly synthesize what we have learned about the usefulness of tools from statistical physics in ecology. Ricard Solé and Jordi Bascompte provide a comprehensive introduction to complex systems theory, and ask: do universal laws shape the structure of ecosystems, at least at some scales? They offer the most compelling array of theoretical evidence to date of the potential of nonlinear ecological interactions to generate nonrandom, self-organized patterns at all levels.

    Tackling classic ecological questions--from population dynamics to biodiversity to macroevolution--the book's novel presentation of theories and data shows the power of statistical physics and complexity in ecology.Self-Organization in Complex Ecosystemswill be a staple resource for years to come for ecologists interested in complex systems theory as well as mathematicians and physicists interested in ecology.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4293-3
    Subjects: Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. List of Figures and Tables
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  5. CHAPTER ONE Complexity in Ecological Systems
    (pp. 1-16)

    Ecology has been eminently a descriptive science despite some pioneering work by theoreticians such as Lotka, Volterra, Nicholson, and others. Description is a first step toward understanding a system. However, such a first step needs to be accompanied by the development of a theoretical framework in order to achieve real insight and, whenever possible, predictive power. Ecologists are increasingly facing the challenge of predicting the consequences of human-induced changes in the biosphere. For example, we need to better understand how biodiversity declines as more habitat is destroyed, or how harvested populations are driven to extinction as harvesting rates are increased....

  6. CHAPTER TWO Nonlinear Dynamics
    (pp. 17-64)

    A popular view assumes a balance of nature. According to this view, species fluctuate until reaching a stationary abundance, a specific number given by the energetic constraints of their habitat. Of course, climatic changes and other perturbations may move populations away from their steady state, but after enough time, they will reach the same equilibrium values. As it happened with early Newtonian physics, early ecological theories were strongly tied to the concept (and goal) of stability. As discussed in the previous chapter, no other example of regularity, predictability, and equilibrium is better than the simple pendulum. By means of the...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Spatial Self-Organization: From Pattern to Process
    (pp. 65-126)

    Tradition in theoretical ecology goes back to the 1920s, with the seminal work of Lotka, Volterra, Nicholson, Bailey, and others. The bulk of this work was based on continuous time equations describing two-species interactions. The only dimension was temporal; that is, space was neglected. Ecology was following the tradition of chemistry and physics by using mean field models. Mean field models are models that provide a statistical description of an average magnitude (e.g., prey density), assuming well-mixed scenarios. For example, the probability of a prey-predator interaction is made proportional to the densities of prey and predator. This means that a...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Scaling and Fractals in Ecology
    (pp. 127-170)

    A striking, widespread feature of many complex systems is that some of their properties are reproduced at different scales in such a way that we perceive the same patterns when looking at different subparts of the same system. This property, known as scale invariance, is widespread in many systems under nonequilibrium conditions. This is the case for ecological systems, where flows of energy enter into the system and are dissipated at different, interconnected scales. The origin of such fractal patterns, named after the pioneering work by Benoit Mandelbrot, is a fundamental problem in many areas of science (Bunde and Havlin,...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Habitat Loss and Extinction Thresholds
    (pp. 171-214)

    Current rates of habitat destruction are extremely high. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), deforestation produced a net loss of some 180 million hectares between 1980 and 1995, that is, an annual average loss of 12 million hectares (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, State of the World’s Forests 1997, FAO, Rome, 1997, p. 16). Extensive losses have been observed in all continents (see, for example, fig. 5.1a). As early reviewed by Sanders et al., the physical changes associated with habitat loss and fragmentation include:

    1. A reduction of total area and productivity...

  10. CHAPTER SIX Complex Ecosystems: From Species to Networks
    (pp. 215-262)

    The analysis of model ecosystems including a small number of species and controlled experiments involving microecologies shows that low-diversity systems can be stable. One could imagine a simple biosphere inhabited by a few interacting species (such as an autotroph and an heterotroph) or even a planet fully covered by a layer of bacteria. Bacterial life was indeed the only dominant life form over 3,000 million years before multicellular life entered the scene, but even bacterial ecosystems are highly diverse (Wilson, 1992). Every place on Earth, at all scales, is shared by many coexisting organisms. This baroque of nature, as it...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN Complexity in Macroevolution
    (pp. 263-316)

    Current estimates indicate that 99% of the total species that sometimes inhabited our planet are extinct. Extinction, thus, is eventually the fate of all species and shows unequivocally that no biota is infinitely resilient (Chaloner and Hallam, 1989; Elliott, 1986). How biotic groups vanish and how biotas recover from large extinction events are important problems with immediate implications for current ecologies (Erwin, 1993). In this context, we are facing a human-driven episode of biodiversity loss comparable with previous mass-extinction events and yet with unknown consequences. Understanding the future of our biosphere requires a knowledge of our past. The fossil record...

  12. APPENDIX ONE Lyapunov Exponents for ID Maps
    (pp. 317-318)
  13. APPENDIX TWO Renormalization Group Analysis
    (pp. 319-320)
  14. APPENDIX THREE Stochastic Multispecies Model
    (pp. 321-324)
  15. References
    (pp. 325-358)
  16. Index
    (pp. 359-371)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 372-373)