Resolving Ecosystem Complexity

Overview

An ecosystem's complexity develops from the vast numbers of species interacting in ecological communities. The nature of these interactions, in turn, depends on environmental context. How do these components together influence an ecosystem's behavior as a whole? Can ecologists resolve an ecosystem's complexity in order to predict its response to disturbances? Resolving Ecosystem Complexity develops a framework for anticipating the ways environmental context determines the ...

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Overview

An ecosystem's complexity develops from the vast numbers of species interacting in ecological communities. The nature of these interactions, in turn, depends on environmental context. How do these components together influence an ecosystem's behavior as a whole? Can ecologists resolve an ecosystem's complexity in order to predict its response to disturbances? Resolving Ecosystem Complexity develops a framework for anticipating the ways environmental context determines the functioning of ecosystems.

Oswald Schmitz addresses the critical questions of contemporary ecology: How should an ecosystem be conceptualized to blend its biotic and biophysical components? How should evolutionary ecological principles be used to derive an operational understanding of complex, adaptive ecosystems? How should the relationship between the functional biotic diversity of ecosystems and their properties be understood? Schmitz begins with the universal concept that ecosystems are comprised of species that consume resources and which are then resources for other consumers. From this, he deduces a fundamental rule or evolutionary ecological mechanism for explaining context dependency: individuals within a species trade off foraging gains against the risk of being consumed by predators. Through empirical examples, Schmitz illustrates how species use evolutionary ecological strategies to negotiate a predator-eat-predator world, and he suggests that the implications of species trade-offs are critical to making ecology a predictive science.

Bridging the traditional divides between individuals, populations, and communities in ecology, Resolving Ecosystem Complexity builds a systematic foundation for thinking about natural systems.

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Editorial Reviews

Choice
Within the fast-growing landscape of ecological literature, this book emerges as a rare yet inspiring attempt to explain ecosystem complexity. Schmitz does this by introducing contingencies in nature and synthesizing up-to-date knowledge on species interactions, trophic structure, and ecosystem function and dynamics through stimulating questions, theoretical thinking, and empirical evidence. . . . This is a model book in ecology, and should be used as a critical reference source for academics interested in ecological theory and recent developments in the field.
Ecology
This book would be a great starting point for undergraduates considering careers in ecology and is a goldmine for graduate students looking for dissertation topics. But most importantly, this book reminds all of us that we can indeed understand the complexity of ecological systems.
— Aaron M. Ellison
BioScience
Although they are strongly focused on the experimental side of ecology the range of topics covered in this book is large and coupled with at least initial experimental evidence, sometimes with fascinating hypothesis-generating extrapolations.
— John H. Vandermeer
Ecology - Aaron M. Ellison
This book would be a great starting point for undergraduates considering careers in ecology and is a goldmine for graduate students looking for dissertation topics. But most importantly, this book reminds all of us that we can indeed understand the complexity of ecological systems.
BioScience - John H. Vandermeer
Although they are strongly focused on the experimental side of ecology the range of topics covered in this book is large and coupled with at least initial experimental evidence, sometimes with fascinating hypothesis-generating extrapolations.
From the Publisher

One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2011

"Within the fast-growing landscape of ecological literature, this book emerges as a rare yet inspiring attempt to explain ecosystem complexity. Schmitz does this by introducing contingencies in nature and synthesizing up-to-date knowledge on species interactions, trophic structure, and ecosystem function and dynamics through stimulating questions, theoretical thinking, and empirical evidence. . . . This is a model book in ecology, and should be used as a critical reference source for academics interested in ecological theory and recent developments in the field."--Choice

"This book would be a great starting point for undergraduates considering careers in ecology and is a goldmine for graduate students looking for dissertation topics. But most importantly, this book reminds all of us that we can indeed understand the complexity of ecological systems."--Aaron M. Ellison, Ecology

"Although they are strongly focused on the experimental side of ecology the range of topics covered in this book is large and coupled with at least initial experimental evidence, sometimes with fascinating hypothesis-generating extrapolations."--John H. Vandermeer, BioScience

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Oswald J. Schmitz is the Oastler Professor of Population and Community Ecology in the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.
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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix List of Tables xiii Preface xv

Chapter 1: Introduction 1
Philosophical Musings 2
Explaining Contingency: A Worldview 4
Contingency and Emergence 5
Preparing the Mind for Discovery 7
Structure of the Book 8

Chapter 2: Conceptualizing Ecosystem Structure 10
Abstracting Complexity 11
Whole System vs. Building Blocks Approach 13
Defining Species Interaction Modules 15
Identifying Interaction Modules in a Grassland Ecosystem 16
Conception of Ecosystem Structure 20

Chapter 3: Trophic Dynamics: Why Is the World Green? 23
Trophic Control as an Emergent Property of Resource Limitation 24
Explaining Contingency in Trophic Control of Ecosystem Function 26
The Nature of Resource Limitation and Trophic Control of Food Chains 28
The Mechanism Switching Hypothesis of Trophic Control 32
Effects of Herbivore Feeding Mode 36
Collective Effects of Herbivore Species with Different Feeding Modes 38
Plant- Antiherbivore Defense and Strength of Trophic Control 39
Herbivore Resource Selection and Ecosystem Function 41
Stoichiometry and Herbivore Resource Use 42
Resource Selection and Ecosystem Function 43
Herbivore Indirect Effects and Engineering of Green Worlds 46
Herbivore- Mediated Carnivore Indirect Effects on Ecosystems 47
Carnivore Indirect Effects on Plant Diversity 47
Carnivore Indirect Effects on Ecosystem Function 50

Chapter 4: The Green World and the Brown Chain 55
Conceptualizing Functions along Detritus- Based Chains 56
Resource Limitation and Trophic Control 57
Trophic Control of Decomposition 59
Trophic Control of Mineralization 61
Mechanisms of Top- Down Control 62
Trophic Coupling between Detritus- Based and Plant- Based Chains 64

Chapter 5: The Evolutionary Ecology of Trophic Control in Ecosystems 68
Carnivore Species and the Nature of Trophic Interactions in an Old- Field System 69
Carnivore Hunting Mode and the Nature of Trophic Interactions 74
The Evolutionary Ecology of Trophic Cascades 86

Chapter 6: The Whole and the Parts 99
Developing Predictive Theory for Emergence 100
Contingency and Carnivore Diversity Effects on Ecosystems 101
Carnivore Diversity and Emergent Effects on Ecosystem Function 106
Shifting Down One Trophic Level: Intermediate Species Diversity and Ecosystem Function 110
Herbivore Diversity and Mediation of Top- Down Control of Ecosystem Function 112
Detritivore Diversity and Mediation of Top- Down Control of Ecosystem Function 117
The Basal Trophic Level: Plant Diversity and Ecosystem Function 118
Functional Classifications 119
Resource Identity Effects on Trophic Interactions 121
Moving Forward on Functional Diversity and Ecosystem Function 122

Chapter 7: The Ecological Theater and the Evolutionary Ecological Play 125
Phenotypic Variation and State- Dependent Trade- Offs 127
Attacked Plants Attract Predators 129
Predators That Avoid Predation 130
The Nonconsumptive Basis of Trophic Transfer Efficiencies 132
Trophic Interactions in a Changing Theater 133
Rapid Change in Hunting Strategy 135
Landscapes of Fear and Ecosystem Management 135
Closing Remarks 139
References 143
Index 167

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