SECTION I: INTRODUCTION: THE NATURE OF ECOSYSTEM STUDIES. 1. Development of concepts in ecosystem science. 2. Structure of terrestrial ecosystems. 3. Measurement of ecosystem function I. Carbon balances. 4. Measurement of ecosystem function II. Water and nutrient balances. 5. Additional approaches to analysis and synthesis in ecosystem studies. SECTION II: MECHANISMS: PROCESSES CONTROLLING ECOSYSTEM FUNCTION. 6. Energy, water and carbon balances over leaves. 7. Water use and water balances in ecosystems. 8. Structure and dynamics of canopy systems. 9. Soil development and the soil environment. 10. Biological processes in soils. 11. Resource allocation and net primary production. 12. Chemical properties of litter and soil organic matter: the decomposition continuum . 13. Decay rates and nutrient dynamics of litter and soil organic matter. 14. Plant-soil interactions: Summary effects on nutrient cycles. 15. Factors limiting consumption: Plant-herbivore interactions. 16. Characteristics of ecosystems with high herbivore consumption rates. 17. The role of fire in carbon and nutrient balances. 18. Synthesis: A generalized theory of ecosystem dynamics. SECTION III: SYNTHESIS: DISTURBANCE, SUCCESSION AND ECOSYSTEM FUNCTION IN SPECIFIC ECOSYSTEMS. 19. A fire-dominated ecosystem: The taiga forests of interior Alaska. 20. The Serengeti: An herbivore-dominated ecosystem. 21. A gap-regeneration system: The northern hardwood forests of the U.S. 22. Ecosystem development over geologic time: Tropical forests of Hawaii. SECTION IV: APPLICATION- HUMAN IMPACTS ON LOCAL, REGIONAL AND GLOBAL ECOSYSTEMS. 23. Ecosystems managed for food and fiber. 24. Invasions and extinctions: interactions between biodiversity and ecosystem function. 25. Effects of air pollution on terrestrial ecosystems. 26. Terrestrial ecosystems and global change.