Are ecosystems and their components continuously distributed and do they adhere to scaling laws, or are they discontinuous and more complex than early models would have us believe? Following C. S. Holling's seminal work on the relationship between animal body mass patterns and scale-specific landscape structure, ecologists have been intrigued by and have explored the theoretical and applied consequences of discontinuities in ecosystems and other complex systems. Holling's work sparked an ongoing debate regarding the underlying mechanisms responsible for the generation of discontinuities and the statistical methods used for their detection.
This volume takes the view that ecosystems and other complex systems are inherently discontinuous and that such fields as ecology, economics, and urban studies will greatly benefit from this paradigm shift.
Contributors present evidence of the ubiquity of discontinuous distributions in ecological and social systems and how their analysis provides insight into complex phenomena. The book is divided into three sections. The first focuses on background material and some contrasting views on the discontinuous organization of complex systems. The second discusses discontinuous patterns detected in a number of different systems and methods for detecting them, and the third touches upon the potential significance of discontinuities in complex systems.
Much of science is still dominated by a focus on power laws, but the contributors to this volume are convinced power laws often mask the interesting dynamics of systems and that those dynamics are best revealed by investigating deviations from assumed power law distributions.
Discontinuities in Ecosystems and Other Complex Systems... is another interesting entry in the resilience literature. Conservation Biology Vol 23 No 4
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