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Hierarchical Perspectives on Marine Complexities

Hierarchical Perspectives on Marine Complexities

Spencer Apollonio
  • Book Info
    Hierarchical Perspectives on Marine Complexities
    Book Description:

    The Gulf of Maine supports a vital fishery for North America and is one of the most intensely studied marine ecosystems in the world. An understanding of its ecology has practical applications to management of other marine systems and fisheries. This book is the first application of Hierarchy Theory to the ecological workings of the Gulf of Maine and of marine ecosystems in general. Hierarchy Theory offers a perspective that simplifies the apparent complications and contradictions of ecosystems, which encompass a number of scales of time (from minutes to decades or longer) and of space (from centimeters to kilometers). Spencer Apollonio explores in detail the idea of natural constraints inherent in hierarchical ecosystems and the impact upon such systems when constraints are reduced or removed. He argues that conventional fisheries management, which practices the removal of these constraints, may be doomed to failure. Apollonio focuses in particular on the "groundfish crisis" in the Gulf, the precipitous decline due to overfishing in populations of cod, haddock, pollock, hakes, and various types of flounders, which have together constituted the mainstay of the Maine fishing industry for centuries. Hierarchical Perspectives on Marine Complexities presents a compelling case for a new approach that holds the promise of resource sustainability in the face of enormously complicated natural and cultural forces.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-51630-3
    Subjects: Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Aquatic Sciences, Biological Sciences

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Credits
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. Chapter 1 The Subject of the Search
    (pp. 1-16)

    The Gulf of Maine, as nineteenth-century historian J. G. Kohl wrote, is “a very marked and peculiar piece of water.” His explanation for that memorable characterization filled twenty pages, but his phrase neatly captures a feeling we can share. We intuitively understand him as our awareness and knowledge of the gulf expand and stir our imagination. It is the Gulf of Maine, not the Atlantic Ocean, that washes in upon the coasts of Maine and western Nova Scotia. The gulf has its own identity. Our gulf—a big, quite shallow, and largely enclosed basin—is separated from the deep waters...

  6. Chapter 2 Some Generalities About Hierarchy Theory and Some Examples
    (pp. 17-26)

    Marine researchers and fisheries scientists and managers do not lack potentially fruitful operational characterizations of ecosystems; rather, a commitment to try to apply them seems to be lacking. Such applications could simplify the job of identifying interconnections or constraints of the Gulf of Maine that are important for particular purposes. And that would provide more productive focus to research and management efforts.

    Fisheries are commonly managed by focusing on the dynamics of individual species, the single-species approach. Population dynamics of fishes are described by differential equations in the literature of population biology. These equations deterministically connect in a direct cause-and-effect...

  7. Chapter 3 Physical Characteristics of the Gulf of Maine
    (pp. 27-44)

    Unlike the rest of the Atlantic coast, the gulf coast, and the Pacific coast of the United States, the Gulf of Maine is an entirely new geographic feature. The Gulf of Maine isn’t very old. It is barely 0.05 percent as old as the Atlantic Ocean, which is one of the youngest of the world’s oceans. Fifteen thousand years ago there was no Gulf of Maine, nor anything remotely resembling it. There was instead a great mass of ice hundreds of feet thick extending into the Atlantic Ocean and immobilizing the area that is now the gulf (fig. 3.1).


  8. Chapter 4 Fauna of the Gulf of Maine
    (pp. 45-102)

    One tactic for developing the present argument about the nature of systems is to suggest that we cannot expect to understand the dynamics of the Gulf of Maine if we think of them only through such examples as the time series of figure 1.1. We should not take it for granted that the way things are now is the way they have always been. It is common practice to do exactly that. We usually infer that a system as we observe it represents the normal structure and functioning of the system. If we think about it for a moment, we...

  9. Chapter 5 Organism Characteristics
    (pp. 103-120)

    We have reviewed some characteristics of representative kinds or qualities of familiar animals. Mammals and birds have social and behavioral mechanisms within themselves that tend to constrain birth or death rates and stabilize their populations toward equilibrium with their environment. They also have warm blood and other properties (like the insulation of blubber or feathers) that make them less susceptible to the physical environment. Fishes may have behavioral properties similar to mammals or birds, depending upon the kind of fish, but our knowledge in this area is incomplete; behavior is an area of biology for our species of fish that...

  10. Chapter 6 Approaching Hierarchy Theory and the Gulf of Maine
    (pp. 121-132)

    My summary of parts of the geography of the Gulf of Maine underlined the diversity and the compartmentalization of both the traditional physical geography and the less familiar hydrography of the gulf. It did so because those features may facilitate what is called patchiness or, in formal ecological terminology, spatial heterogeneity of distributions of organisms in the gulf. All those compartments provide opportunity for lots of patchiness or heterogeneity. Spatial heterogeneity has important implications for stability of populations, and we noted that possibility when reviewing the family of cod-related fishes. It is worth the effort at this point, while thinking...

  11. Chapter 7 Hierarchies and Constraints
    (pp. 133-186)

    Now that we have looked at characteristics of parts of the Gulf of Maine with the idea of Hierarchy Theory in the background, we are better prepared to take a more formal look at the nature of hierarchical constraints. To facilitate that effort, let us recall a number of general characteristics we found in the Gulf of Maine that lend themselves to hierarchical ordering; that is, these characteristics change in predictable ways as we shift our focus between lower and higher hierarchical levels.

    Scales of space and time expand at higher levels, as when we shift our focus from a...

  12. Chapter 8 Hierarchical Applications
    (pp. 187-206)

    Communities of species, or systems, change naturally in the course of time because of the evolving characteristics of life history strategies of component species. Ramon Margalef (1975) listed three phenomena, outlined previously, the evolution of which influences the development of ecosystems structures and functions. They are:

    single-species life history characteristics;

    communities of species; and

    species linkages that regulate systems functionings.

    Often these changes include evolution of larger, slower-growing organisms. By these strategies, species and systems tend to internalize control over their dynamics. They tend to incorporate environmental perturbations within systems. The importance and the applicability of this evolutionary trend to...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 207-210)
  14. Glossary
    (pp. 211-214)
  15. References
    (pp. 215-224)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 225-230)