Chapter 4

Principles of Ecological Dynamics

Vikas Rai


Understanding ecosystem’s response to perturbations is essential to get an idea of ecological organization and function. May started a debate in 1973. The debate revolved around ‘stability’ and ‘complexity’ in ecological systems. In the same year, C. S. Holling in British Columbia came up with imaginative theories of ecosystem function. Engineering resilience and ecological resilience are two main tenets of his theory. These theories help us analyze an ecosystem’s response to perturbations; e.g., changes in sea surface temperature (SST), other climatic variables, disease and habitat fragmentation, etc. Ecological systems are complex systems. An idiosyncratic feature of complex systems is that the whole behaves in an entirely different fashion than the parts. Concepts and techniques of Newtonian mechanics hardly apply to such systems. What applies to them is new kind of dynamics called non–linear dynamics. The Chapter describes all necessary concepts from this discipline. The research on discontinuities in ecological systems suggests the presence of adaptive cycles across the scales of a panarchy; a nested set of adaptive cycles operating at discrete levels. A system’s resilience depends on the interconnections between structure and dynamics at multiple scales. Complex systems are more resilient when the threshold between a given dynamic regime and an alternate regime is higher.

Total Pages: 48-64 (17)

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