Behind this seemingly trivial argument was a more

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Behind this seemingly trivial argument was a more important one. How should ecol- ogy best be studied? One group took a holistic approach, feeling that whole systems should be studied as units. By and large, these were the botanists and limnologists.Their studies of plants, particularly plant biogeography, and of water systems emphasized important associations between organisms and environments. Zoologists, on the other hand, tended to be more reductionist in approach. They believed that the best way to understand complex biological systems was to gain intimate and complete understanding of each component population of the system. These early ecologists studied individual species; their work grew out of the tradition of natural history studies. Arguments between the two camps raged and continue to do so. We might like to think that disputes in science are worked out in sophisticated,intellectual ways.Alas,such is often not the case.Scientists are nothing if not human,and disputes often get rancorous and personal. Examining these disputes, while an amusing enterprise, teaches us little about ecology. One important point can be made: Ecology is no stranger to controversy. At the beginning of the 21st century, three of the main branches of ecology are pop- ulation ecology, systems ecology, and applied ecology. P l a n t b i o g e o g r a p h y B e h a v i o r a l e c o l o g y L i m n o l o g y E n v i r o n m e n t a l p h y s i o l o g y P o p u l a t i o n e c o l o g y S y s t e m s e c o l o g y A p p l i e d e c o l o g y A n e c d o t e s N a t u r a l h i s t o r y F o l k w i s d o m SCIENCE NONSCIENCE Figure 15-3 The history of ecology is more like a bush than a tree. Its origin cannot be attributed to any single person or idea. Rather, the science of ecology has been the work of numerous scientists, primarily of the 20th century.
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Exploration Exploration 15-1 What Is Ecology? 493 Figure 15-4 Restoration ecology is the youngest branch of contemporary ecology. Here, a wetlands, damaged by development, is being restored. 1. Population ecology focuses on dynamic changes occurring in one population or species. Here, relatively narrow questions are answered in great detail. These spe- cialists might, for example, follow and predict changes in specific deer populations in temperate deciduous forests of North America.This chapter will focus on factors important to population ecologists. 2. Systems ecology studies the dynamics of complex ecological communities and is holistic in approach. Complex systems, with all their many interacting parts, are studied as units by systems ecologists concerned with “big picture” concepts and questions. They might, for example, be interested in looking at the flow of energy through a temperate deciduous forest community ranging from browse plants to deer to wolves and other predators. In Chapter 16, we will stress factors particularly important to systems ecologists.
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