Ecology for Environmental Professionals

Ecology for Environmental Professionals

Ecology for Environmental Professionals

Ecology for Environmental Professionals

Synopsis

The lesson of interconnectedness has yet to be fully absorbed in environmental policy, which lacks integration of ecological principles. Ecology is an indispensible thread in the cultural tapestry into which environmental policy and law are being woven. Extending beyond the four dimensions of space and time, ecological sciences are expressed from holistic and reductionist vantages, informing environmental professionals at levels as diverse as ecosystems experimentation and empirical human ecology. This volume renders ecology accessible to anyone lacking scientific preparation who would take an environmental stance: professional, political, legal, or personal.

Excerpt

If one accepts that the contemporary environmental movement finds its most immediate roots in the 1960s and that the national commitment to environmental amenities was most recently reinvigorated through the National Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C.A. 4321 et seq.), the 1990s are the third "Decade of the Environment." It can come as no surprise that there are numerous levels of ecology today. In addition to the science itself, ecology is claimed by everyone from politicians to poets. Ecology as one of the biological sciences can serve to inform all those interests.

Because ecology depends on all the other natural sciences and full comprehension of its adaptation into policy and law depends in turn on the nature of science, scientists, and the scientific method, the introductory background (Chapters 1 and 2) will consider the place of ecology among the natural sciences in terms of Eugene Odum's Theory of Integrative Levels. That theory observes that there are successive levels of science from pure mathematics to ecology. Each level is subject to a unique complex of natural laws by which its phenomena can be understood. Moreover, each level can only be explained in part by the phenomena of the preceding level, each level being more than the sum of its parts. Hence, the need to examine each both holistically and through reductionist techniques.

As scientists often do, we will examine ecosystems empirically, starting with the holistic approach (synecology). Specifically, we will consider the basic components of a "generic" ecosystem, that is, habitats and communities in the structural and functional unit identified as an ecosystem (Chapter 3). The specific organisms making up the community, especially the vegetation of terrestrial communities, lend themselves to prediction on the basis of global location (Chapter 4). This factor informs the environ-

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