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ecosystemécosystème (fr.); Ökosystem (ger.)

  • A functional structure that consists of populations of organisms belonging to different species, and of those objects and conditions of the environment that they make use of. In most contexts ecosystems are differentiated by a change of abiotic conditions (e.g. the border line between water and land). The unity of an ecosystem can also consist of a relationship of mutual dependency between populations of organisms (analogous to the relationship between organs and organism). At the centre of the analysis are usually nutritional relations. Trophic autarky is accordingly regarded as a requirement for the existence of an ecosystem. An ecosystem comprises therefore at least one primary producer (e.g. plants) and one decomposer (e.g. bacteria), usually with consumers inbetween (e.g. animals). (HWB 2011)
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    [is this world to be considered thus merely as a machine, to last no longer than its parts retain their present position, their proper forms and qualities ? Or may it not be also considered as an organized body? Such as has a constitution in which the necessary decay of the machine is naturally repaired, in the exertion of those productive powers by which it had been formed. This is the view in which we are now to examine the globe; to see if there be, in the constitution of this world, a reproductive operation, by which a ruined constitution may be again epaired, and a duration or stability thus procured to the machine, considered as a world sustaining plants and animals.

    Hutton, J. (1788). Theory of the earth; or an investigation of the laws observable in the composition, dissolution, and restoration of land upon the globe. Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1, 209-304: 216.]

    Clements’ earlier term ›biome‹ for the whole complex of organisms inhabiting a given region is unobjectionable, and for some purpose convenient. But the more fundamental conception is, as it seems to me, the whole system (in the sense of physics), including not only the organism-complex, but also the whole complex of physical factors forming what we call the environment of the biome – the habitat factors in the widest sense. Though the organisms may claim our primary interest, when we are trying to think fundamentally we cannot separate them from their special environment, with which they form one physical system. It is the systems so formed which, from the point of view of the ecologist, are the basic units of nature on the face of the earth. Our natural human prejudices force us to consider the organisms (in the sense of the biologist) as the most important parts of these systems, but certainly the inorganic ›factors‹ are also parts – there could be no systems without them, and there is constant interchange of the most various kinds within each system, not only between the organisms but between the organic and the inorganic. These ecosystems, as we may call them, are of the most various kinds and sizes. They form one category of the multitudinous physical systems of the universe, which range from the universe as a whole down to the atom.
    Tansley, A.G. (1935). The use and abuse of vegetational concepts and terms. Ecology 16, 284-307: 299.

    A unit of vegetation considered as such a system includes not only the plants of which it is composed, but the animals habitually associated with them, and also all the physical and chemical components of the immediate environment or habitat which together form a recogisable self-contained entity. Such a system may be called an ecosystem (Tansley, 1935)

    Tansley, A.G. (1939). The British Islands and their Vegetation (reprint with corrections in 2 vols., Cambridge 1949): 228.

    The ecosystem may be formally defined as the system composed of physical-chemical-biological processes active within a space-time unit of any magnitude, i.e., the biotic community plus its abiotic environment
    Lindeman, R.L. (1942). The trophic-dynamic aspect of ecology. Ecology 23, 399-417: 400.

    The ecosystem may be defined as the interacting environmental and biotic system.

    Allee, W.C., Emerson, A.E., Park, O., Park, T. & Schmidt, K.P. (1949). Principles of Animal Ecology: 695.


    Any entity or natural unit that includes living and nonliving parts interacting to produce a stable system in which the exchange of materials between the living and the nonliving parts follows circular paths is an ecological system or ecosystem.

    Odum, E.P. (1953). Fundamentals of Ecology: 9.

    Ökosystem = Lebensgemeinschaft + Lebensraum
    Tischler, W. (1955). Synökologie der Landtiere: 404.
    Ecosystem as the basic unit in ecology
    Evans, F.C. (1956). Ecosystem as the basic unit in ecology. Science 123, 1127-1128.
    The ecosystem […] is a geographic object
    Rowe, J.S. (1961). The level-of-integration concept and ecology. Ecology 42, 420-427: 425.
    [B]iotic community and its abiotic environment; the whole earth can be considered as one large ecosystem
    Krebs, C.J. (1972). Ecology. The Experimental Analysis of Distribution and Abundance: 634.
    Ein Ökosystem ist ein Wirkungsgefüge von Lebewesen und deren anorganischer Umwelt, das zwar offen, aber bis zu einem gewissen Grade zur Selbstregulation befähigt ist
    Ellenberg, H. (1973). Ziele und Stand der Ökosystemforschung. In: id (ed.). Ökosystemforschung, 1-31: 1.
    the ecosystem in nature is taken to consist of biotic and abiotic components that change and evolve together, and the term ›ecosystem‹ to imply a unit of co-evolution
    Patten, B.C. (1975). Ecosystem as a coevolutionary unit: a theme for teaching systems ecology. In: Innis, G.S. (ed.). New Directions in the Analysis of Ecological Systems, part 1, 1-8: 6.
    Ecosystem – the plexus composed of abiotic entities and at least one organism, which are united by the exchange of matter and energy
    MacMahon, J.A., Phillips, D.L., Robinson, J.V. & Schimpf, D.J. (1978). Levels of biological organization: an organism-centered approach. BioScience 28, 700-704: 704.
    Ein Ökosystem ist ein biologisches System, das aus den Wechselwirkungen (aller oder einer begrenzten Zahl) biotischer und abiotischer Compartments (Elemente) untereinander und mit ihrer abiotischen und biotischen Umgebung (definierte Ausschnitte der Biosphäre) in einer diskreten Zeit gebildet wird
    Stöcker, G. (1979). Ökosystem – Begriff und Konzeption. Archiv für Naturschutz und Landschaftsforschung 19, 157-176: 165.
    noncybernetic nature of ecosystems
    Engelberg, J. & Boyarsky, L.L. (1979). The noncybernetic nature of ecosystems. Amer. Natur. 114, 317-324: 317.

    ecosystem A community of organisms and their physical environment interacting as an ecological unit; the entire biological and physical content of a biotope; biosystem; holoeoen.

    Lincoln, R.J., Boxshall, G.A. & Clark, P.F. (1982). A Dictionary of Ecology, Evolution and Systematics: 75.

    Ökosystem: eine sich aus abiotischen und biotischen Faktoren des Ökotops bzw. von Geosystem und Biosystem aggregierende Funktionseinheit der hochkomplexen realen Umwelt, die somit einen Ausschnitt aus der Geobiosphäre bildet, der ein sich selbst regulierendes Wirkungsgefüge darstellt, dessen stets offenes stoffliches und energetisches System sich in einem dynamischen Gleichgewicht befindet
    Leser, H. (1984). Zum Ökologie-, Ökosystem- und Ökotopbegriff. Natur Landsch. 59, 351-357: 356.
    Ein Ökosystem ist ein Wirkungsgefüge von Lebewesen und deren anorganischer Umwelt, das offen, und bis zu einem gewissen Grade zur Selbstregulierung befähigt ist
    Klötzli, F. (1993). Ökosystem. In: Kuttler, W. (ed.). Handbuch zur Ökologie, 288-295: 288.
    In his inaugural lecture […], Roy [Clapham] presented a wide-ranging review of botany, including reference to the ‘ecosystem’. This was a word which Roy had suggested to Tansley in the early 1930s when he was asked if he could think of a suitable one to denote the physical and biological components of an environment considered in relation to each other as a unit. The word first came into print (unacknowledged) in 1935 (Tansley 1935) and subsequently passed into general use by non-biologists from about 1960
    Willis, A.J. (1994). Arthur Roy Clapham, 1904-90. Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society 39, 73-90: 81.
    ecosystem engineers
    Jones, C.G., Lawton, J.H. & Shachak, M. (1994). Organisms as ecosystem engineers. Oikos 69, 373-386.
    Ecosystems are defined as communites in relation to their environment. […] In most instances, ecosystems are distinguished because they appear relatively homogeneous when compared with their surroundings. They may be considered as homogeneous constellations of abiotic and biotic ecosystem characteristics
    Klijn, F. & Udo de Haes, H.A. (1994). A hierarchical approach to ecosystems and its implications for ecological land classification. Landscape Ecology 9, 89-104: 90; 92.
    a unit comprising a community (or communities) of organisms and their physical and chemical environment, at any scale, desirably specified, in which there are continuous fluxes of matter and energy in an interactive open system
    Willis, A.J. (1997). The ecosystem: an evolving concept viewed historically. Functional Ecol. 11, 268-271: 270.
    [E]cosystem: an assemblage of organisms considered together with their abiotic environment
    Jax, K., Jones, C.G. & Pickett, S.T.A. (1998). The self-identity of ecological units. Oikos 82, 253-264: 254.
    Years later [after 1952], chatting in the garden of his retirement home near Lancaster, he [Roy Clapham] told me that he invented a word now greatly in vogue. Arthur Tansley had mentioned his groping after a new term to encapsulate his concept of the physical environment and its interdependent plants and animals as an integrated and dynamic whole. Clapham responded, »Well you are always describing it as a ›system‹ so why not call it the ›eco-system‹?« He was so modest, as well as such a stickler for accuracy, that it would be exactly as he said
    Ratcliffe, D.A. (2000). In Search of Nature: 94-5.

    Ein Ökosystem ist ein Funktionsgefüge aus den Populationen von Organismen verschiedener Arten sowie den von ihnen genutzten Bedingungen und Gegenständen ihrer Umwelt. In den meisten Kontexten werden Ökosysteme durch den Wechsel der abiotischen Verhältnisse (z.B. die Grenze einer Wasserfläche zum umgebenden Land) voneinander abgegrenzt. Die Einheit eines Ökosystems kann aber auch darin bestehen, dass die Organismenpopulationen in einem Verhältnis der wechselseitigen Bedingung zueinander stehen (analog zum Verhältnis der Organe eines Organismus untereinander). Im Zentrum der Analyse stehen dabei meist die Ernährungsverhältnisse. Auf dieser Grundlage gilt die trophische Autarkie als Bedingung für das Vorliegen eines Ökosystems. Ein Ökosystem umfasst demnach mindestens eine Population von primären Produzenten (z.B. Pflanzen) und Reduzenten (z.B. Bakterien), dazwischengeschaltet sind meist Populationen von Konsumenten (z.B. Tiere).

    Toepfer, G. (2011). Historisches Wörterbuch der Biologie. Geschichte und Theorie der biologischen Grundbegriffe, vol. 2: 715.

Major, J. (1969). Historical development of the ecosystem concept. In: Van Dyne, G.M. (ed.). The Ecosystem Concept in Natural Resource Management, 9-22.

Schramm, E. (1983). Ökosystem. Arch. Gesch. Naturwiss. 8-9, 411-415.

Hagen, J.B. (1992). An Entangled Bank. The Origins of Ecosystem Ecology.

Golley, F.B. (1993). A History of the Ecosystem Concept in Ecology. More than the Sum of the Parts.

Jax, K. (1998). Holocoen and ecosystem – on the origin and historical consequences of two concepts. J. Hist. Biol. 31, 113-142.

Jax, K. (2002). Die Einheiten der Ökologie.

Acot, P. (2009). Ecosystems. In: Bowler, P.J. & Pickstone, J.V. (eds.). The Cambridge History of Science, vol. 6. The Modern Biological and Earth Sciences, 451-466.

Jax, K. (2010). Ecosystem Functioning.