Disturbance, Stress and Resilience

  • Douglas J. SpielesEmail author
Part of the Springer Series on Environmental Management book series (SSEM)


In Wonderful Life (1989), Stephen Jay Gould played a metaphorical game he called “replaying life’s tape.” In the game, you rewind the history of life on Earth to some point in the past, and then “let the tape run again and see if the repetition looks at all like the original.” He was writing about the evolution of various forms of life on Earth, not about the assembly of ecological communities, but the same game may be played with ecosystems. Rewind the tape a short time, perhaps a few million years, and press play. When the tape has returned to the present – assuming humans are still present – would we still be trying to preserve the oak savannas south of Lake Erie? Would we be managing ecosystems in eastern Kansas to favor big bluestem and Indian grass and to discourage woody species? And (though I would like to believe that the channelization of the Kissimmee would not happen in any other reality), would we still by trying to restore a mean annual dry season density of long-legged wading birds on the Kissimmee floodplain to greater than 30.6 birds/km2?


Ecosystem Service Storm Surge Disturbance Regime Disturbance Event Alpha Diversity 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Denison UniversityGranvilleUSA

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