Non-Equilibrium Ecology

TitleNon-Equilibrium Ecology
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2001
AuthorsReynolds J.F.
EditorMooney H.A, Canadell J.
Book TitleEncyclopedia of Global Environmental Change, Volume Two
PublisherJohn Wiley & Sons
Call Number00782
Keywordsbook, books, chapter, chapters, global change, model, model, Gaia, model, non-equilibrium ecology, report, reports
AbstractOne of the most controversial and well-known theories associated with global change is the Gaia hypothesis. Originated by biologist James Lovelock, this hypothesis states that over geologic time, biotic life on Earth has evolved to "control" the physical forces of nature, resulting in a bio-geosphere that is self-regulatory, or homeostatic. Thus, acting like the thermostat in your house, any deviation from this balanced condition or set-point will result in a "corrective" response in order to maintain the stable equilibrium. Do ecosystems behave this way? If so, predicting their response to global change would be relatively easy. However, notions of stable equilibria -- as espoused by the Gaia hypothesis -- are centered around the concept of the balance of nature, which has dictated western views of science since antiquity. It is ironic that the Gaia hypothesis is receiving such popular attention at a time when ecologists are eschewing the equilibrium-centered view per se in favor of a non-equilibrium one. During the past several decades ecology has experienced a paradigm shift: from the balance of nature to equilibrium/stability to non-equilibrium. This paradigm shift, which embraces spatio-temporal dynamics of ecosystems, is essential to our ability to develop a predictive understanding of the dynamics of ecosystems.
Reprint EditionIn File (10/09/2001)