The ecosystem concept--the idea that flora and fauna interact with the environment to form an ecological complex--has long been central to the public perception of ecology and to increasing awareness of environmental degradation. In this book an eminent ecologist explains the ecosystem concept, tracing its evolution, describing how numerous American and European researchers contributed to its evolution, and discussing the explosive growth of ecosystem studies. Golley surveys the development of the ecosystem concept in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and discusses the coining of the term ecosystem by the English ecologist Sir Arthur George Tansley in 1935. He then reviews how the American ecologist Raymond Lindeman applied the concept to a small lake in Minnesota and showed how the biota and the environment of the lake interacted through the exchange of energy. Golley describes how a seminal textbook on ecology written by Eugene P. Odum helped to popularize the ecosystem concept and how numerous other scientists investigated its principles and published their results. He relates how ecosystem studies dominated ecology in the 1960s and became a key element of the International Biological Program biome studies in the United States--a program aimed at "the betterment of mankind" specifically through conservation, human genetics, and improvements in the use of natural resources; how a study of watershed ecosystems in Hubbard Brook, New Hampshire, blazed new paths in ecosystem research by defining the limits of the system in a natural way; and how current research uses the ecosystem concept. Throughout Golley shows how the ecosystem concept has been shaped internationally by both developments in other disciplines and by personalities and politics.
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