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Ecology and Environmental Justice: Understanding Disturbance Using Ecological Theory

  • Steward T. A. PickettEmail author
  • Christopher G. Boone
  • Mary L. Cadenasso
Chapter
Part of the Human-Environment Interactions book series (HUEN, volume 3)

Abstract

The different cultures of social equity and ecological science can be bridged by an enhanced understanding of the occurrence of environmental hazards and benefits. Knowledge about ecological disturbance improves understanding of how socio-ecological systems respond to the events that disrupt the structure of systems and the flows of resources within them. It is important to recognize that not all instances of a kind of event, such as fire or flood, will be equally disruptive. In part this is because there are many ecological modifiers, such as biological structure of an ecosystem, topography, and the specific weather and other conditions in place before and during an event, that affect individual events. Furthermore, the human, institutional, and infrastructural capitals available in different locations operate along with biophysical factors that modify disturbance and the response to it. Biophysical response to disturbance is motivated by successional capacity, the resource base of the site, and the neighboring landscape context. Environmental injustices are remarkably persistent due to biophysical patterns of these modifying factors in space. Ecological theory embodies the understanding of disturbance patterns through time and space, lays out the assumptions about the structure of affected systems, and extends the knowledge base beyond the memory of people who must plan for and react to environmental disturbances and stresses.

Keywords

Disturbance Successional capacity Topography Equity Ecological modifiers 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We thank Charlie Nilon and George Middendorf for providing the stimulus for this chapter. This is a product of the Baltimore Ecosystem Study, LTER, with support from NSF DEB 0423476, BCS-BE 508054, and SBE-HSD 0624159.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Steward T. A. Pickett
    • 1
    Email author
  • Christopher G. Boone
    • 2
  • Mary L. Cadenasso
    • 3
  1. 1.Cary Institute of Ecosystem StudiesMillbrookUSA
  2. 2.School of SustainabilityArizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  3. 3.Department of Plant SciencesUniversity of California-DavisDavisUSA

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