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From Populations to Ecosystems

From Populations to Ecosystems: Theoretical Foundations for a New Ecological Synthesis (MPB-46)

Michel Loreau
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 328
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  • Book Info
    From Populations to Ecosystems
    Book Description:

    The major subdisciplines of ecology--population ecology, community ecology, ecosystem ecology, and evolutionary ecology--have diverged increasingly in recent decades. What is critically needed today is an integrated, real-world approach to ecology that reflects the interdependency of biodiversity and ecosystem functioning.From Populations to Ecosystemsproposes an innovative theoretical synthesis that will enable us to advance our fundamental understanding of ecological systems and help us to respond to today's emerging global ecological crisis.

    Michel Loreau begins by explaining how the principles of population dynamics and ecosystem functioning can be merged. He then addresses key issues in the study of biodiversity and ecosystems, such as functional complementarity, food webs, stability and complexity, material cycling, and metacommunities. Loreau describes the most recent theoretical advances that link the properties of individual populations to the aggregate properties of communities, and the properties of functional groups or trophic levels to the functioning of whole ecosystems, placing special emphasis on the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. Finally, he turns his attention to the controversial issue of the evolution of entire ecosystems and their properties, laying the theoretical foundations for a genuine evolutionary ecosystem ecology.

    From Populations to Ecosystemspoints the way to a much-needed synthesis in ecology, one that offers a fuller understanding of ecosystem processes in the natural world.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3416-7
    Subjects: Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Biological Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface: On Unifying Approaches in Ecology
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  5. CHAPTER 1 Population and Ecosystem Approaches in Ecology
    (pp. 1-18)

    Building a theory that merges population, community, and ecosystem ecology requires at the very least that the fundamental descriptions of reality provided by the various subdisciplines be compatible with each other. But meeting this basic requirement is far from being a trivial issue given the widely different conceptual foundations and formalisms used by population and community ecology on the one hand and by ecosystem ecology on the other. In this introductory chapter, I first briefly revisit the foundations and formalisms of the population and ecosystem approaches in ecology. I then show how mass and energy budgets can bridge the gap...

  6. CHAPTER 2 The Maintenance and Functional Consequences of Species Diversity
    (pp. 19-55)

    The core of community ecology is concerned with the question: why are there so many species on Earth? The tremendous diversity of life despite common constraints on the physiology and ecology of organisms is one of the hallmarks of living systems. Community ecology seeks to explain the maintenance of species diversity within ecological systems very much like population genetics seeks to explain the maintenance of genetic diversity within species. A large part of this diversity can be explained by geographical differences in environmental conditions across the globe and by historical circumstances. Many species and genetic variants, however, coexist in any...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning
    (pp. 56-78)

    During the last decade interest has shifted from explaining species diversity to understanding the functional consequences of biodiversity. Biodiversity is a broader concept than species diversity because it includes all aspects of the diversity of life—including molecules, genes, behaviors, functions, species, interactions, and ecosystems. Accordingly, it can be approached from multiple perspectives. Although the classical approach in taxonomy, ecology, and conservation biology has been based on species and species numbers, other approaches focus on the diversity of functional traits (Diaz and Cabido 2001; Naeem and Wright 2003) or phylogenies (Faith 1992). So far, however, most studies have concerned species...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Food Webs, Interaction Webs, and Ecosystem Functioning
    (pp. 79-122)

    A food web describes the network of trophic interactions between species, i.e., who eats whom, in an ecosystem. Since trophic interactions are both the vehicle of energy and material transfers and one of the most significant ways in which species interact, they have always lain at the confluence of community and ecosystem ecology. But they have been approached from different perspectives in different traditions. The energetic view articulated by Lindeman (1942) and developed by ecosystem ecology during the following decades views food webs as networks of pathways for the flow of energy in ecosystems, from its capture by autotrophs in...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Stability and Complexity of Ecosystems: New Perspectives on an Old Debate
    (pp. 123-163)

    Research into the potential consequences of changes in biodiversity on ecosystem functioning and on the delivery of ecosystem services has been prominent in fostering cross-fertilization between community ecology and ecosystem ecology during the last decade. This research has shown that biodiversity loss can have adverse effects on the average rates of ecosystem processes such as primary production and nutrient retention in temperate grassland ecosystems (chapter 3). Most of the evidence for this conclusion, however, comes from relatively short-term theoretical and experimental studies under controlled conditions, which do not address the long-term sustainability of ecosystems. The last chapter (chapter 4) extended...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Material Cycling and the Overall Functioning of Ecosystems
    (pp. 164-195)

    So far I have moved gradually from simpler to more complex systems, starting with single populations (chapter 1), then continuing with competitive systems that have multiple species but a single trophic level (chapters 2, 3, and 5), and finally expanding the scope to food webs and interaction webs with multiple species and multiple trophic levels (chapters 4 and 5). Now has come the time to consider the ecosystem as a whole, and the specific constraints that arise from its overall functioning.

    An ecosystem represents the entire system of biotic and abiotic components that interact in a given location. As such,...

  11. CHAPTER 7 Spatial Dynamics of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning: Metacommunities and Metaecosystems
    (pp. 196-224)

    A defining feature of ecology over the last few decades has been a growing appreciation of the importance of considering processes operating at spatial scales larger than that of a single locality, from the scale of the landscape to that of the region (Ricklefs and Schluter 1993; Turner et al. 2001). Spatial ecology, however, has reproduced the traditional divide within ecology between the perspectives of population and community ecology on the one hand and ecosystem ecology on the other hand.

    The population and community ecological perspective has focused on population persistence and species coexistence in spatially distributed systems (Hanski and...

  12. CHAPTER 8 Evolution of Ecosystems and Ecosystem Properties
    (pp. 225-259)

    Ecosystem ecology and evolutionary biology are two disciplines that have not had a history of close, peaceful relationships. They have been largely separate intellectual endeavors (Holt 1995), and when they have interacted, it has been more often to clash than to blend. The modern theory of evolution sees evolution as the result of a two-step process: trait variation is first generated at random by mutations or recombination of the genetic material, and natural selection then acts on this variation to sift out those traits that confer better adaptation to the environment. Since genes are carried, expressed, and transmitted by individual...

  13. CHAPTER 9 Postface: Toward an Integrated, Predictive Ecology
    (pp. 260-268)

    The human species is arguably at a turning point in its historical development. In a few millennia, humans have risen from the state of sparse populations of gatherers-hunters with minor impacts on their environment to that of a global collective force that is reshaping the face of Earth. The fate of our planet hinges to a significant extent on how humankind will handle its new status of global dominant species and adapt its behavior and society accordingly during this century. The global human population and economy are still growing nearly exponentially today. One of the most striking and yet poorly...

  14. References
    (pp. 269-290)
  15. Index
    (pp. 291-298)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 299-300)