Discontinuites in Ecosystems and Other Complex Systems

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Following the publication of C. S. Holling's seminal work on the relationship between animal body mass patterns and scale-specific landscape structure, ecologists began to explore the theoretical and applied consequences of discontinuities in ecosystems and other complex systems. Are ecosystems and their components continuously distributed and do they adhere to scaling laws, or are they discontinuous and more complex than early models would have us believe? The resulting propositions over the structure of complex systems sparked an ongoing debate regarding the mechanisms generating discontinuities and the statistical methods used for their detection.

This volume takes the view that ecosystems and other complex systems are inherently discontinuous and that such fields as ecology, economics, and urban studies greatly benefit from this paradigm shift. Contributors present evidence of the ubiquity of discontinuous distributions in ecological and social systems and how their analysis provides insight into complex phenomena. The book is divided into three sections. The first focuses on background material and contrasting views concerning the discontinuous organization of complex systems. The second discusses discontinuous patterns detected in a number of different systems and methods for detecting them, and the third touches on the potential significance of discontinuities in complex systems. Science is still dominated by a focus on power laws, but the contributors to this volume are convinced power laws often mask the interesting dynamics of systems and that those dynamics are best revealed by investigating deviations from assumed power law distributions.

In 2008, a grand conference on resilience was held in Stockholm, hosting 600 participants from around the world. There are now three big centers established with resilience, the most recent one being the Stockholm Resilience Center, with others in Australia (an international coral reef center), Arizona State University's new sustainability center focusing on anthropology, and Canada's emerging social sciences and resilience center. Activity continues to flourish in Alaska, South Africa, and the Untied Kingdom, and a new center is forming in Uruguay.

Columbia University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Conservation Biology

Discontinuities in Ecosystems and Other Complex Systems... is another interesting entry in the resilience literature.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231144452
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 6/24/2008
  • Series: Complexity in Ecological Systems Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Craig R. Allen is leader of the USGS Nebraska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit and associate professor in the School of Natural Resources, University of Nebraska. He serves on the board of directors of the Resilience Alliance and the board of editors of the journal Ecology and Society. C. S. Holling has worked at the Institute of Resource Ecology, University of British Columbia, and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Vienna. He has also held the Arthur R. Marshall Jr. Chair in Ecological Sciences at the University of Florida, where he launched a comparative study of the structure and dynamics of ecosystems in the Florida Everglades. He is a coeditor of Columbia University Press's Barriers and Bridges to the Renewal of Regional Ecosystems.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

PrefacePart I. Background 1. Panarchies and DiscontinuitiesCrawford S. Holling, by Garry D. Peterson2. Self-organization and Discontinuities in EcosystemsGarry D. Peterson3. Discontinuity, by Multimodality Graeme S. Cumming and Tanya D. Havlicek4. Discontinuities in Body-Size Distributions: A View from the Top Pablo A. Marquet, by Sebastian AbadesPart II. Patterns 5. Patterns of Landscape Structure, by DiscontinuityJan P. Sendzimir6. Biophysical Discontinuities in the Everglades EcosystemLance H. Gunderson7. Discontinuities in the Geographical Range Size of North American Birds and ButterfliesCarla Restrepo and Natalia Arango8. Discontinuities in Urban Systems: Comparison of Regional City-Size Structure in the United StatesAhjond S. Garmestani, by Craig R. Allen9. Evaluating the Textural Discontinuity Hypothesis: A Case for Adaptive Inference Craig A. Stow, by Jan P. SendzimirPart III. Consequences 10. Dynamic Discontinuities in Ecologic-Economic SystemsJ. Barkley Rosser Jr.11. The Ecological Significance of Discontinuities in Body-Mass Distributions Jennifer J. Skillen and Brian A. Maurer12. Cross-Scale Structure and the Generation of Innovation and Novelty in Discontinuous Complex Systems Craig R. Allen and Crawford S. HollingSynthesisDonald LudwigReferencesContributorsIndex

Columbia University Press

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