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A Sourcebook for the Worldwide Discovery of a Creative Organic Universe
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V. Life's Corporeal Evolution Develops, Encodes and Organizes Itself: An EarthWinian Genesis Synthesis

6. Dynamic Fractal Network Ecosystems

Levin, Simon. Ecosystems and the Biosphere as a Complex Adaptive System. Ecosystems. 1/4, 1998. The Princeton University ecologist sets the guiding theme for a new journal based on this perspective.

Levin, Simon. Fragile Dominion. Reading, MA: Perseus Books, 1999. Theory and experiment in light of complex adaptive systems which promises to bring a novel appreciation of bioregional ecologies and biosphere viability.

Self-organizing systems have been the fascination of scientists from a diversity of disciplines because the concept of self-organization provides a unifying principle that allows us to provide order to an otherwise overwhelming array of diverse phenomena and structures. (12)

Levin, Simon. Self-organization and the Emergence of Complexity in Ecological Systems. BioScience. 55/12, 2005. Another article is this special section, with an emphasis on ecosystems. The Princeton University ecologist reaffirms his views of a dynamic universality at work in nature from biomolecules to planetary societies.

Ecosystems and the biosphere are complex adaptive systems, in which pattern emerges from, and feeds back to affect, the actions of adaptive individual agents, and in which cooperation and multicellularity can develop and provide the regulation of local environments, and indeed impose regularity at higher levels. (1075) The literature is too diverse and fast moving to allow an adequate review here; suffice it to say that the development of agent-based approaches to understanding all aspects of biospheric organization, from proteomics to nutrient cycling to civilizations, is one of the most active and exciting areas of research, crossing disciplines and yielding new insights into the workings of the world. (1077)

Levin, Simon, ed. The Princeton Guide to Ecology. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009. As director of Princeton’s Center for Biocomplexity, Simon Levin has advocated as much as anyone the study of nature’s fauna and flora as dynamical, scalar, interconnective networks. This collection, whose main topics are Autecology, Population Ecology, Communities and Ecosystems, Landscapes and the Biosphere, Conservation Biology, Ecosystems Services, and Managing the Biosphere, favors this nonlinear systems approach. Typical pieces could be “Evolution of Communities and Ecosystems” by Nicolas Loeuille and “Landscape Dynamics” by David Tongway and John Ludwig.

Ecology views biological systems as wholes, not as independent parts, while seeking to elucidate how these wholes emerge from and affect the parts. Increasingly, this holistic perspective, rechristened as the theory of complex adaptive systems, has informed understanding and improved management of economic and financial systems, social systems, complex materials, and even physiology and medicine – but essentially this means little more than taking an ecological approach to such systems, investigating the interplay among processes at diverse scales and the interaction between systems and their environments. (Levin, vii)

Lidicker, William. Levels of Organization in Biology: On the Nature and Nomenclature of Ecology’s Fourth Level. Biological Reviews. 83/1, 2007. In the same issue as Gerard Jagers article, another affirmation of nature’s hierarchy, as here seen by ecologists, of organism, population, and community, to which the author proposes an encompassing ecosystem scale. For this most inclusive domain, the term ‘ecopshere’ is proposed.

The new level must be spatially and temporally scale-free as are all the levels in the natural hierarchy of science. (76)

Lin, Hua, et al. Self-Organization of Tropical Seasonal Rain Forest in Southwest China. Ecological Modelling. 222/15, 2011. While self-organized phenomena are now recognized to span natural and societal realms, this has been difficult to quantify for ultra complex ecosystems. Here Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, researchers find a nonequilibrium thermodynamic approach that utilizies a “maximum energy dissipation theory” to reveal how a typical biota as jungle vegetation can organize themselves.

Linquist, Stefan, et al. Yes! There are Resilient Generalizations (or “Laws”) in Ecology. Quarterly Review of Biology. 91/2, 2016. University of Guelph biologists and philosophers including Ryan Gregory review the past century of environmental studies to conclude (as other fields also) that independent, generic, universally applicable natural principles really do exist, instantiate, and guide.

It is often argued that ecological communities admit of no useful generalizations or “laws” because these systems are especially prone to contingent historical events. Detractors respond that this argument assumes an overly stringent definition of laws of nature. Under a more relaxed conception, it is argued that ecological laws emerge at the level of communities and elsewhere. A brief review of this debate reveals an issue with deep philosophical roots that is unlikely to be resolved by a better understanding of generalizations in ecology. We therefore propose a strategy for transforming the conceptual question about the nature of ecological laws into a set of empirically tractable hypotheses about the relative resilience of ecological generalizations across three dimensions: taxonomy, habitat type, and scale. These hypotheses are tested using a survey of 240 meta-analyses in ecology. Our central finding is that generalizations in community ecology are just as prevalent and as resilient as those in population or ecosystem ecology. These findings should help to establish community ecology as a generality-seeking science as opposed to a science of case studies. (Abstract)

Margalef, Roman. Exosomatic Structures and Captive Energies Relevant in Succession and Evolution. Jorgensen, Sven and Felix Muller, eds. Handbook of Ecosystems Theories and Management. Boca Raton, FL: Lewis Publishers, 2000. A novel view of evolution as due to self-organized information which is contained in increasingly efficient external storage and retrieval systems.

Marquet, Pablo. Of Predators, Prey, and Power Laws. Science. 295/2229, 2002. An example of how complexity science is now articulating the intricate natural realm previously seen as intractably tangled.

As has been demonstrated, power laws are ubiquitous within local ecosystems and may hold the clue to understanding large-scale patterns in the structure and function of biodiversity. (2230)

Martinez-Garcia, Ricardo, et al.. Spatial Patterns in Ecological Systems: From Microbial Colonies to Landscapes. Emerging Topics in Life Sciences. 6/3, 2022. Instituto de Física Teórica UNESP, Brazil, Princeton University (Cornia Tarnita) and Rutgers University ecotheorists describe their current findings that Quite fulfill our 21st century survey and expectation from only patchy, spurious instances to this well grounded evident presence of whole scale as a robust confirmation as this across every everion and bioregion. See also Phase-separation Physics Underlies New Theory for the Resilience of Patchy Ecosystems by Koen Siteur, et al in PNAS (120/2, 2023.)

Self-organized spatial patterns are ubiquitous in ecological systems and allow them to adopt non-trivial spatial distributions from disordered configurations. These patterns form due to diverse nonlinear interactions among organisms and their environment which lead to the emergence of new properties unique to self-organized systems. Here, we establish two categories depending on whether the self-organization is driven by nonlinear density-dependent demographic rates or movements from microbial colonies to whole environments. (Abstract)

McGuirl, Melissa, et al. Topological Data Analysis of Zebrafish Patterns. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 117/5113, 2020. Self-organized pattern behavior is ubiquitous throughout nature from fish schooling to collective cell dynamics. (1) Biomathematicans MM and Bjorn Sandstede, Brown University, and Alexandria Volkening, Northwestern University provide an example of how widely this natural propensity has become accepted in practice. In the early 2000s, it was hardly mentioned anywhere. In 2020, a universality of local interactive agents from which a global phase arises is strongly evident. After citing this common source, the paper describes an instance by the way it shapes aquatic scale formations.

Meron, Ehud. Nonlinear Physics of Ecosystems. Boca Raton: CRC Press, 2015. In this volume which seeks to join these far-removed yet intimately related domains, a Blaustein Institute for Desert Research and Ben-Gurion University physicist specifies and explains how living environments exemplify a spontaneous self-organization via complex dynamical systems of self-similar pattern formation. Nature’s entanglement can at last be shown to exhibit an integral universality of scales, periodicities, fractal shapes, symmetry breaks, reciprocities, and so on across vegetation, species, communities, and biodiversities.

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