The Structure of Aquatic Ecosystems and its Dependence on Environmental Variables

  • J. E. Paloheimo
  • A. P. Zimmerman
  • W. G. Sprules
  • M. A. Gates
Part of the NATO Conference Series book series (NATOCS, volume 13)


The traditional approach to ecology, to study different species or ecological processes in isolation or in relation to a rather limited set of environmental or biotic factors, has, in part, given way to a synthesis using coupled process models and techniques of systems analysis (e.g. Patten, 1971, 1972; Platt et al., 1981). While reductionist in approach, the synthesis has attempted, by use of simulation and large data bases, to arrive at a more holistic description of the ecosystem. The hope was, and perhaps still is, that by coupling major functional, energetically defined components of ecosystems in order to simulate the known or presumed interactions and material fluxes between the parts of the system, we will arrive at a description which allows a more parsimonious characterization of the ecosystem and its dynamic nature. While there is no question that this exercise has increased our understanding of the functional characteristics of ecosystems, the emergent or holistic properties of large-scale ecological systems models have, to our way of thinking, failed to emerge. The failure to find valid generalizations or ecosystem properties has to do, in part, with our lack of understanding of the homeostatic mechanisms involved, with our lack of understanding of the way nature, as opposed to the human mind, integrates subsystems and, in part, with the inadequacy of data on diverse ecosystems as a whole.


Phosphorus Loading Herbivorous Zooplankton Functional Size Phytoplankton Standing Crop Carnivorous Zooplankton 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. E. Paloheimo
    • 1
  • A. P. Zimmerman
    • 1
  • W. G. Sprules
    • 1
  • M. A. Gates
    • 1
  1. 1.Dept. of ZoologyUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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