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Ecosystems and their services in a changing world: an ecological perspective

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JournalAdvances in Ecological Research
DateAccepted/In press - 2013
Volume48
Number of pages70
Pages (from-to)1-70
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

The adoption of an Ecosystem Approach to environmental management requires an understanding of the complex linkages between natural capital stocks and the flows of ecosystem services from those stocks. Stock-flow relationships and dynamics have been central to much of ecosystem research and ecosystem ecologists therefore have much to contribute to the development of an ecosystem service science. In this paperHere, we explore the potential of systems analysis and systems ecology for advancing this field, in particularly via the more holistic approaches grounded in thermodynamics and cybernetics, and contrast these with more reductionist experiment-based approaches that seek to linkrelate biodiversity to ecosystem functioning to ecosystemand services. Both approaches can provide valuable insights into the relationships between stocks and flows and the mechanisms behind them. The importance of scale and scaling issues in designing research programmes around these two approaches is discussed, particularly in the context of providing practical advice to those involved in environmental management. However, for ecosystem- science evidence to be effectively recognised and incorporated into decision- making, mainstream ecologists must be prepared to work alongside other non-science disciplines. The challenges and benefits of interdisciplinary working are reviewed and a model framework provided to facilitate work on socio-ecological systems.

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