Talk:Ecosystem ecology

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Sounds[edit]

- Sounds a bit like Ecosystem Thermodynamics (e.g. Prigogine).


Merge with Systems Ecology[edit]

Hello! I realize I promised to fix the images a weekago (a few months ago) a here they are. I have released them all to public domain which I hope helps with the copyright issues. I have leftout the final image until I can figureout how to use the more specific copyright (one with attribution). Thanks to those of you who have been helping out with this first offering to the Wiki.

Some discussion has been placed on the definition of ecosystem ecology and if it merits its own category. Fields such as ecosystem thermodynamics and systems ecology are closely associated with ecosystem ecology… in fact I can easily see where there may be some confusion distinguishing them. Ecosystem ecology is separated from these fields by two characteristics: 1) Ecosystem ecology deals with pools and fluxes of organisms, elements, and energy 2) the ecosystem is a spatially distinct unit, that is, one where integration of pools and fluxes of those mentioned in (1) can be integrated across space. The result is a framework for examining ecological dynamics in a spatially implicit framework. For spatially explicit see some of the excellent articles on landscape ecology.

Overall, I encourage more dialogue on this. Professional ecologists argue whether many subfields of ecology truly deserve status as separate fields… so why should things be different on the wiki? More discussion could do a lot in defining the similarities and differences among various fields. -Ncycling User:Ncycling July 3rd 2007


I think this page should be merged/replaced with Systems Ecology. There is very little information contained on this page anyway. Any objections? Cazort 18:23, 16 December 2006 (UTC)


Part of the problem with ecosystem ecology is that the can appear redundant... however, it is an important science for understanding global change, conservation, and especially, many natural resources issues. I feel this page should remain independent and I am planning a major expansion of the material in it. Please post your continued thoughts on this. Best, Ncycling Ncycling January 9, 2007

Any merge would be systems ecology into ecosystem ecology, since ecosystem ecology is a top-level subdisciple of ecology, while systems ecology is one of Odum's "new ideas" that are more popular with engineers than ecologists. Not sure how to merge them without the "undue weight" problems. Guettarda 19:30, 9 January 2007 (UTC)

Please find posted tonight a first draft of my wiki contribution. Note also, as this is my first contribution that the formatting may be a little off. I will continue to work on this and pledge to update the page over the next week. The final section will also include a few paragraphs on cheat grass. Help, especially with links and other formatting is very welcome... as well as comments!!! The figures look bad and I will fix them. Please bare with this...

Also, prior to submission, this article has been anonymously reviewed by four ecologists and received favorable reviews. Ncycling February 24, 2007

Many thanks to Ncycling for his recent expansion of the article. Wikipedia needs experts! I have some questions though - the article delves very deeply into topics such as how ecosystems work. Since the article is about the discipline itself, maybe some sections would be better included in more specific articles more suited to such depth, such as Ecosystem. Any thoughts? +A.Ou 23:48, 25 February 2007 (UTC)


I also appreciated the recent contributions, though the formatting and diagrams might be refined down the track. I'm also thinking that ecosystems ecology is not that different from systems ecology. 'Ecosystems' is short for 'ecological systems', which is the reverse word order of 'systems ecology'. Given this, it's not clear to me where one discipline starts and the other ends. It would be beneficial to show where the main difference is. The presence of the 'ecosystem engineering' concept also muddies the water re: the distinction between engineers and ecologists. Sholto Maud 04:03, 26 February 2007 (UTC)

What is the distinction between ecosystem ecology and systems ecology? I disagree with the assertion that a merge ought to be into "ecosystem ecology" and not vice versa. A google scholar search yields slightly more scholarly articles referring to "Systems ecology" than to "Ecosystem ecology". Perhaps they are separate fields...but this article in particular does not communicate how they are different. The result is confusion, even to the moderately well-educated reader such as myself. Cazort 02:52, 12 October 2007 (UTC)

Ecosystems ecology is one of the three subdivisions of ecology recognized by most ecologists (along with population and community ecology). If you open any ecology textbook you will find a section of the book devoted to ecosystem ecology, but will often find no reference at all to systems ecology in the entire text. I am currently applying for academic jobs in ecology. Ecosystem ecologist is a frequent job description for ecologist jobs (as seen here http://www.biology.duke.edu/jackson/ecophys/faculty.htm) whereas systems ecologist is absent from the diverse list of currently sought after ecologists. The notion that ecosystem ecology should be merged into systems ecology is absurd. Justinleif 04:24, 12 October 2007 (UTC)
Your response does not answer my original question: "what is the distinction between ecosystem ecology and systems ecology?" You are talking about which field is considered more mainstream. I think this is irrelevant to the discussion; Wikipedia is not a place where ideas get more representation just because they are more mainstream. I will make my original question more precise: what is the distinction between the two fields? I am curious what defines each field, what makes their approach, philosophy, or methodology different. I have read Odum's work on System Ecology and from my understanding of it, it seems to encompass, or at least strongly connect with many of the topics discussed in this page. Systems ecology seems to be characterized by a holistic approach, in contrast to a reductionist approach. This is in keeping with the well-established idea that ecosystems are complex systems exhibiting emergence. I am confused as to the two subjects of systems ecology and ecosystem ecology because I have seen the term "ecosystem ecology" used in the literature to refer to a holistic approach which I thought was the defining feature of systems ecology. For example, Sven Erik Jørgensen lists systems ecology as one of his interests on his homepage, but he recently published a book talking about ecosystem ecology. Is he simply interested in both subjects, or does he use the terms interchangeably?
If you could explain what the distinction is, I would be grateful. Right now, to be honest, this seems more of a political naming scheme than anything else, one that is being used to label certain ideas as orthodoxy and dismiss other ones. Is anything in "ecosystem ecology" necessarily in conflict with a holistic approach, with the idea of emergence, or with the approach of general systems theory which influenced systems ecology? Cazort 19:49, 23 October 2007 (UTC)
  • Wikipedia is not a place where ideas get more representation just because they are more mainstream - actually yes, it is (see WP:NC.
My understanding of wikipedia's policy is that if there is dispute (in the literature, which can be sourced) about a naming scheme--i.e. people use the same term to refer to different things, or different terms to refer to the same thing, wikipedia is to make this distinction clear.
  • [W]hat is the distinction between the two fields? - I think the main distinction is philosophical. Mauricio describes systems ecology like this:
Systems ecology is a branch of ecology that attempts to understand the structure and function of ecosystems by concentrating on energy inputs and outputs of the system (Odum, 1983; Patten & Jørgensen, 1995). Systems ecology was developed partly as a way to confront the complexity of systems. The system itself is a black box and the approach trades off the ability to understand the details of the components of the system for understanding the system as a whole. (Mauricio, Rodney. 2005. Can ecology help genomics: the genome as ecosystem? Genetica (2005) 123: 205–209

Systems ecology has its origins with the Odums (especially HT Odum), and was developed by people like Holling, Ulanowicz and, apparently, Jørgensen. HT Odum developed a lot of ideas like Emergy and Maximum Power that have never really been accepted by the ecological mainstream. Ecosystem ecology also has its roots in the Odums (and Hutchinson (their doctoral adviser) and Lindeman). That idea has become a major subfield of ecology. HT took his ideas a little further. Many of the people have have embraced this view of ecological systems have opted to use "systems ecology" instead of "ecosystem ecology". The difference, as I see it, is primarily philosophical. Since many of Odum's ideas are either impractical or poorly developed theoretically, many people shy away from identifying too strongly with them. Guettarda 20:56, 24 October 2007 (UTC)

This perspective that you are putting forth makes some sense, but it does not fit with everything that I have seen. In a sense it seems more applicable of the field of ecology in the United States. I see a great deal of material in the literature referring to "systems ecology" to mean things beyond HT Odum's ideas. Sven Erik Jørgensen's book Integration of Ecosystem Theories (recently in a new edition) uses the words almost interchangeably; he is in Denmark. As another example, the University of Stockholm has a department of systems ecology. Is it wedded to HT Odum's ideas? I doubt it. But there is an important difference in perspective between European and American ecologists.
Also, discussing HT Odum's ideas, I agree that his original ideas were impractical or poorly developed theoretically...but that was then; the philosophical aspects of his approach influenced others who developed other ideas that are more valid, more practical, and more scientifically testable, and I think it's unreasonable to say these things fall outside "systems ecology" just because they are more mainstream. Odum himself has gone in a somewhat different direction (but still embraces systems ecology...check out his (2000) book on modeling systems (ISBN 0125241704); it's a far cry from the material depicted on the current wikipedia page on systems ecology. Honestly I think that page is really awful...it paints a completely inaccurate picture of systems ecology. The ideas on it are out-of-date and many have been tossed aside even by people embracing the systems ecology approach. On top of this the page is poorly written and doesn't even present the original ideas adequately. But I'm not quite sure how to edit it because I'm not quite sure where "systems ecology" begins and ends. And this discussion is just leaving me confused...I think I need to talk to someone who has extensive familiarity both approaches/fields of ecology, and most people seem to either be "in" or "out" of the systems ecology camp--which I don't think is a healthy thing for editing wikipedia. Cazort 22:39, 25 October 2007 (UTC)
Beyond Odum? Yes. But still intellectually descendant of Odum's idea. For some reason it seems to be most popular in Scandinavia, and among environmental engineers. As for Odum, sadly he died in 2002. Guettarda 03:59, 26 October 2007 (UTC)

Adding Links[edit]

Great job on the page Ncycling. I began adding links to other wikipedia articles, and will try to continue that in the next few days. I agree that ecosystem ecology should not be merged with anything else. It needs to remain a separate article since it is such an important academic field, although I can see that it might sound similar to many other topics that already have wiki pages to non-ecologists. Cheers Justinleif 18:12, 22 March 2007 (UTC)