Ecosystem_ecology.pdf - Principles of Terrestrial Ecosystem Ecology F Stuart Chapin III Pamela A Matson Harold A Mooney Springer PTE1 7:24 PM Page 3 1

Ecosystem_ecology.pdf - Principles of Terrestrial Ecosystem...

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Principles of Terrestrial Ecosystem Ecology F. Stuart Chapin III Pamela A. Matson Harold A. Mooney Springer
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Introduction Ecosystem ecology addresses the interactions between organisms and their environment as an integrated system. The ecosystem approach is fundamental in managing Earth’s resources because it addresses the interactions that link biotic systems, of which humans are an integral part, with the physical systems on which they depend. This applies at the scale of Earth as a whole, a continent, or a farmer’s field. An ecosystem approach is critical to resource man- agement, as we grapple with the sustainable use of resources in an era of increasing human population and consumption and large, rapid changes in the global environment. Our growing dependence on ecosystem con- cepts can be seen in many areas. The United Nations Convention on Biodiversity of 1992, for example, promoted an ecosystem approach, including humans, to conserving biodiversity rather than the more species-based approaches that predominated previously. There is a grow- ing appreciation of the role that individual species, or groups of species, play in the func- tioning of ecosystems and how these functions provide services that are vital to human welfare. An important, and belated, shift in thinking has occurred about managing ecosys- tems on which we depend for food and fiber. The supply of fish from the sea is now declin- ing because fisheries management depended on species-based approaches that did not ade- quately consider the resources on which com- mercial fish depend. A more holistic view of managed systems can account for the complex interactions that prevail in even the simplest ecosystems.There is also an increasing appreci- ation that a thorough understanding of eco- systems is critical to managing the quality and quantity of our water supplies and in regulating the composition of the atmosphere that deter- mines Earth’s climate. Overview of Ecosystem Ecology The flow of energy and materials through organisms and the physical environment pro- vides a framework for understanding the diver- sity of form and functioning of Earth’s physical and biological processes. Why do tropical forests have large trees but accumulate only a thin layer of dead leaves on the soil surface, whereas tundra supports small plants but an abundance of soil organic matter? Why does the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere decrease in summer and increase in winter? What happens to that portion of the nitrogen that is added to farmers’ fields but is 1 The Ecosystem Concept Ecosystem ecology studies the links between organisms and their physical environ- ment within an Earth System context.This chapter provides background on the con- ceptual framework and history of ecosystem ecology.
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