Ecosystem Concepts: Introduction

Abstract

Ecology is the study of the interactions among organisms in the context of their environment. The ecosystem concept in ecology provides a framework for understanding the flows of energy and elements between organisms and their abiotic surroundings.

Keywords: energy flow; element cycle; biome; ecosystem; ecology

Figure 1.

Levels of biological organization. The ecosystem level incorporates the interactions among organisms and their abiotic environment.

Figure 2.

(a) A generalized diagram of an ecosystem showing trophic interactions. (b) Charles Elton's pyramid of numbers. The number of individuals in each trophic level is represented by the size of the bar. Both of Elton's findings are evident in this figure: The number of individuals decreases moving up the food chain, and food chains are rarely longer than four to five levels.

Figure 3.

(a) Global distributions of terrestrial biomes. (Adapted from Bush MB (1997) Ecology of a Changing Planet, by permission of Pearson Education, Inc., Upper Saddle River, NJ.) (b) The relationship of terrestrial biomes to average temperature and total precipitation. (Adapted from Whittaker RH (1975) Communities and Ecosystems, by permission of Pearson Education, Inc., Upper Saddle River, NJ.)

Figure 4.

Energy budget for the Earth system. Numbers represent percentages of the energy received as incoming solar radiation. (Reprinted with permission from Chapin et al. (2002) Principles of Terrestrial Ecosystem Ecology. Springer‐Verlag, New York.)

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Further Reading

Chapin FS, Matson PA and Mooney HA (2002) Principles of Terrestrial Ecosystem Ecology. New York: Springer‐Verlag.

Forbes SA (1887) The lake as a microcosm. Bulletin of the Peoria Scientific Association, pp. 77–87. [Reprinted in Bulletin of the Illinois State Natural History Survey 15 (1925): 537–550. Also reprinted in Real LA and Brown JH (eds) (1991).Foundations of Ecology, pp. 14–27. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.]

Golley FB (1993) A History of the Ecosystem Concept in Ecology. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Hagen JB (1992) AnEntangled Bank: The Origins of Ecosystem Ecology. Rutgers, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Likens GE and Bormann FH (1995) Biogeochemistry of a Forested Watershed, 2nd edn. New York: Springer‐Verlag.

Likens GE, Bormann FH, Johnson NM, Fisher DW and Pierce RS (1970) Effects of forest cutting and herbicide treatment in nutrient budgets in the Hubbard Brook watershed ecosystem. Ecological Monographs 40: 23–47.[Also reprinted in Real LA and Brown JH (eds) (1991) Foundations of Ecology, pp. 880–904. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.]

Lindeman RL (1942) The trophic‐dynamic aspect of ecology. Ecology 23: 399–418.[Also reprinted in Real LA and Brown JH (eds)(1991) Foundations of Ecology, pp. 157–176. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.]

Odum EP (1971) Fundamentals of Ecology, 3rd edn. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders College Publishing.

Schlesinger WH (1997) Biogeochemistry: An Analysis of Global Change, 2nd edn. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

Tansley AG (1935) The use and abuse of vegetational concepts and terms. Ecology 16: 284–307. [Also reprinted in Real LA and Brown JH (eds)(1991) Foundations of Ecology, pp. 318–341. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.].

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How to Cite close
Camill, Philip(Mar 2004) Ecosystem Concepts: Introduction. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0003186]