History of the Ecosystem Concept, 76 years old this month

I have been blogging this past week about the ecosystem concept.  The term was introduced by Arthur Tansley 76 years ago this month in a paper entitled “The use and abuse of vegetation concepts and terms” in the journal Ecology.

For an overview of the irritations that provoked Arthur Tansley to introduce the new term see here.

For an overview of the arguments (and Tansley’s counter-argument) that the vegetation climax could be considered a “complex organism” (or superorganism) see here.

For a discussion on the distinction between community ecology and ecosystem ecology (a distinction that would not have been so pronounced when Tansley wrote his paper see here.

For an account of the role of systems theory (especially in its manifestation as Hierarchy theory) see here.

Most of these pieces will end up, I hope, in a book next year  “10 Things Wrong with Environmental Thinking” which takes a sympathetic but critical look at the history of environmental thinking.  One other recent piece related to this project that might be of interest was in 3quarksdaily last month on the St Simeon Stylites and the ascetic impulse in environmentalism (here).  Comments and critique on any of this is most welcome.

Liam Heneghan

About dublinsoil

Professor of Environmental Science
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