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The Ecosystem Approach: Complexity, Uncertainty, and Managing for Sustainability

Series: Complexity in Ecological Systems Series

By: David Waltner-Toews(Author), James J Kay(Author), Nina-Marie E Lister(Author)

383 pages, b/w illustrations, tables

Columbia University Press

Paperback | Aug 2008 | #176269 | ISBN-13: 9780231132510
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Hardback | no dustjacket | Aug 2008 | #176270 | ISBN-13: 9780231132503
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About this book

Is sustainable development a workable solution for today's environmental problems? Is it scientifically defensible? Best known for applying ecological theory to the engineering problems of everyday life, the late scholar James J. Kay was a leader in the study of social and ecological complexity and the thermodynamics of ecosystems. Drawing from his immensely important work, as well as the research of his students and colleagues, The Ecosystem Approach is a guide to the aspects of complex systems theories relevant to social-ecological management. Advancing a methodology that is rooted in good theory and practice, The Ecosystem Approach features case studies conducted in the Arctic and Africa, in Canada and Kathmandu, and in the Peruvian Amazon, Chesapeake Bay, and Chennai, India.

Applying a systems approach to concrete environmental issues, The Ecosystem Approach is geared toward scientists, engineers, and sustainable development scholars and practitioners who are attuned to the ideas of the Resilience Alliance-an international group of scientists who take a more holistic view of ecology and environmental problem-solving.Chapters cover the origins and rebirth of the ecosystem approach in ecology; the bridging of science and values; the challenge of governance in complex systems; systemic and participatory approaches to management; and the place for cultural diversity in the quest for global sustainability.

"A copy of The Ecosystem Approach should be placed on the desk of every engineer, manager, environmentalist, politician and teacher."
– Kyrke Gaudreau, Alternatives Journal Vol 35, No 3

"The Ecosystem Approach will help to shape the paradigm shift away from single species, reductionist approaches and toward a variety of holistic, ecosystem approaches that recast science from a Newtonian into a complexity mode. A solid contribution to the scholarly and teaching literature in ecology and environmental sciences."
– Dean Bavington, University of Michigan



David Waltner-Toews, by Nina-Marie E. Lister

Part I. Some theoretical bases for a new ecosystem approach

1. An Introduction to Systems Thinking

James Kay

2. Framing the Situation: Developing a system description

James Kay

3. Scale and type: a requirement for addressing complexity with dynamical quality

Tim Allen

4. Self-Organizing, by Holarchic

Michelle Boyle and James Kay

5. So what changes? Implications of complexity for an ecosystem approach to management

James Kay

6. Bridging Science and Values: The Challenge of Biodiversity

Nina-Marie E. Lister

7. The cultural basis for an ecosystem approach

Fikret Berkes and Iain Davidson-Hunt

8. A Family of Origin for an Ecosystem Approach to Managing for Sustainability

Martin Bunch, by Dan McCarthy

Part II. Case studies: Learning by Doing

9. Linking hard and soft systems in local development

Reg Noble, by Ricardo Ramirez

10. Human Activity and the Ecosystem Approach: The contribution of Soft Systems Methodology to managing the Cooum River in Chennai, by India

Martin Bunch

11. Landscape Perspectives on Agroecosystem Health in the Great Lakes Basin

Dominique Charron and David Waltner-Toews

12. An Agroecosystem Health case study in the Central Highlands of Kenya

Thomas Gitau, by David Waltner-Toews

13. Food, by Floods and Farming: an Ecosystem Approach to Human Health on the Peruvian Amazon frontier

Tamsyn Murray, by David Waltner-Toews

Part III. Managing for Sustainability: Meeting the Challenges

14. Implementing an Ecosystem Approach: The Diamond and AMESH

David Waltner-Toews and James Kay

15. Return to Kathmandu: A Post-Hoc Application of AMESH

Cynthia Neudoerffer, by D. Waltner-Toews

16. Tools for Learning: monitoring and indicator development

Michelle Boyle and James Kay

Part IV. Where to from here? Some challenges for a new science in an uncertain world

17. Beyond complex systems - Emergent complexity and social solidarity

Silvio Funtowicz and Jerry Ravetz

18. Third World inequity, by critical political economy and an ecosystem approach

Ernesto F. Ráez-Luna

19. An Ecosystem Approach for sustaining ecological integrity--but which ecological integrity?

David Manuel-Navarrete, by Dan Dolderman

20. The water or the wave? Toward an ecosystem approach for cross-cultural dialogue on the Whanganui River, by New Zealand

Charlotte Helen Šunde

A Tribute to James Kay

David Waltner-Toews and N-M E. Lister

Appendix A. Hierarchy and holonocracy

Henry Regier


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David Waltner-Toews is a professor of epidemiology in the Department of Population Medicine at the University of Guelph. With James Kay, Michelle Boyle, and David Cressman, he cofounded the Network for Ecosystem Sustainability and Health. He was also founding president of Veterinarians without Borders/Vétérinaires sans Frontières-Canada.

James J. Kay (1955-2004) was associate professor in environment and resource studies at the University of Waterloo, where he also held cross-appointments in systems design engineering and urban planning.

Nina-Marie E. Lister is a registered professional planner and associate professor in urban and regional planning at Ryerson University in Toronto.

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