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Fundamental Processes in EcologyAn earth systems approach$
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David M Wilkinson

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780198568469

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198568469.001.0001

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Introducing the thought experiment

Introducing the thought experiment

Chapter:
(p.3) 1. Introducing the thought experiment
Source:
Fundamental Processes in Ecology
Author(s):

David M. Wilkinson

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198568469.003.0001

This introductory chapter sets out the books central thought experiment: ‘For any planet with carbon-based life, which persists over geological time-scales, what is the minimum set of ecological processes that must be present?’. It contrasts this process base approach with the more conventional ‘entity’-based approach used by most university level ecology texts — where entities are things such as individuals, populations, species, communities, ecosystems, and the biosphere. The chapter also introduces the concept of the ‘Gaian effect’: the long term effect of any given process on the persistence of life on a planet. The key ‘fundamental processes’ described in the following chapters are summarized.

Keywords:   thought experiment, Gaian effect, carbon-based life, populations, species, ecosystems, biosphere

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