, Volume 18, Issue 5, pp 735–739 | Cite as

Ecosystem’s 80th and the Reemergence of Emergence

  • Edward B. RastetterEmail author
  • Joseph J. Vallino

“Ecosystem” turned eighty this July. When Tansley (1935) coined the term, he did so largely as a rejection of the concept of emergence as espoused by Phillips (1935). The Phillips paper actually came out a month after Tansley’s, but Tansley was editor for the Journal of Ecology at the time and he published Phillip’s paper with a footnote on the first page that can only be viewed as a disclaimer. Tansley (1935) left no doubt about his feelings in the title of his response: “The Use and Abuse of Vegetation Concepts and Terms.” However, Tansley’s struggle with the concept of emergence precedes his clash with Phillips and is very clearly presented in a 1932 Lecture to Magdalen Philosophy Club of Oxford University, which was posthumously published by Ecosystems in 2002 (Tansley 2002).

Emergence has since reemerged and has again entered the lexicon of ecologists. However, it is not always clear what is meant by an “emergent property”; often it seems that the concept is invoked simply to...


Chaotic System Mechanistic Emergence Emergent Property Strange Attractor Complete Knowledge 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Nos. 0949420, 1026843, 1107707, 1065587, 1238212, and 1451356. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Ecosystems CenterMarine Biological LaboratoryWoods HoleUSA

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