, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 1–10

The Ecosystem as a Multidimensional Concept: Meaning, Model, and Metaphor

  • S. T. A. Pickett
  • M. L. Cadenasso

DOI: 10.1007/s10021-001-0051-y

Cite this article as:
Pickett, S. & Cadenasso, M. Ecosystems (2002) 5: 1. doi:10.1007/s10021-001-0051-y


The ecosystem is a fundamental ecological concept that is not as simple as it first appears. We explore three key dimensions of the concept that make it both complex and broadly useful—its basic definition, its application via models to concrete or specific situations, and its metaphorical connotations as used in general communication within the domain of science and with the public at large. Clarity in identifying what the dimensions are and how they are related can help to maintain the rigor of the concept for specific scientific uses while also allowing enough flexibility for its use in the integration of scientific principles, as well as in public discourse. This analysis of the ecosystem as a multidimensional concept is likely to be generalizable to other important concepts in ecology.

Key words: ecosystem concept; ecosystem definition; metaphor; model; specification; values. 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. T. A. Pickett
    • 1
  • M. L. Cadenasso
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Box AB, Millbrook, New York, 12545 USAUS

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