EcoSys Session 01


Introductions between us

Vocabulary: Ecology, Economics, Populations, Communities, Hierarchy Theory, Ecosystem, Feedback Loops, Input/Output Environments

Ecology – oikos (household) + logos (knowledge)
Economics - oikos (household) + nomics (management)

Hierarchies of organisation: nested/non-nested

Basic system

Input and Output environments


The Workshop Process

Can be a collective conceptual experiment: a temporary think-tank

Research question: How do 'ecologies' and 'ecosystems' apply to project design and management?


Choose a project to conceptually unpack

(One with recent experience, you are familiar with, or one you would like to conceptually unpack)

This is one which can be explored, unpacked, with the attempt to describe it as an ecosystem.

It can involve applying words and concepts from one context to another, and transforming meanings.
It can involve detailing all aspects of the project.
It can involve detailing the 'populations' in the project that make up the community.
It can involve detailing the community and non-living environment working together.
It can involve detailing the project and the artifacts produced within it.
It can involve detailing the forces and energies applied between all of the above.
It can involve imagining where the project's 'landscape' and 'region' is.
It can involve imagining how the project might be developed or extended.
It can involve imagining its sustainability or life-span.
It can involve thinking about what might feedback in the process or recycled elsewhere.
It can involve thinking about what might be left behind and what use that might be.


Organisational Hierarchies

Ref: Odum (1997) Chapter 2: Levels of Organisation

Hierarchy is an arrangement into a graded series of compartments

Geological, biological and ecological hierarchies are 'nested' in each level made up of lower-level units.

In comparison human-organised hierarchies in governments, military, corporations, universities are 'non-nested'. (sergeants, for example, are not composed of groups of privates).


The Ecological Hierarchy

In ecology the term population, originally coined to denote a group of people, is broadened to include groups of individuals of any species that live together in some designated area.

In the singular, a population is a group of organisms of the same, interbreeding species;
In the plural, populations may include groups of organisms of different species that are linked by common ancestry or common habitat (eg plants, birds, plankton populations)

Community, in ecology, is used in the sense of the biotic community, to include all of the populations living in a designated area.

The community (biotic) and the non-living environment (abiotic) functioning together as an ecological system or ecosystem.

biogeocoenosis (german & russian literature): “life and earth functioning together”

Groups of ecosystems along with human artifacts make up landscapes,

which in turn are part of large regional units (both geographical and natural regions) called biomes (e.g. an ocean, a grassland region)

The major continents and oceans are the biogeographic regions, each with its own special flora and fauna.

The Biosphere (synonymous with ecosphere) is widely used to refer to all of Earth's ecosystems functioning together on a global environmental scale.

Ecosphere = all the life and interacting non-living materials (all the ecosystems).

Also lithosphere (rocks, sediments, mantle and core of earth), hydrosphere (surface and ground water) and atmosphere.

Each level in the hierarchy influences what goes on at adjacent levals.
Processes at lower levels are often constricted by those at a higher level.
In otherwords large ecosystems as a whole , such as oceans or large forests, are less variable over time than their individual components.


Applying Hierarchy Theory

The challenge is to recognise the unique characteristics of the level selected and devise appropriate methods of study and/or action.

Different tools are required for study at different levels.

To get useful answers we must ask the right questions.


About Models

A model is a simplified formulation that mimics a real-world phenomenon so that complex situations can be comprehended and predictions made.

In their simplest form, models maybe verbal or graphic.

In its formal version, a working model of an ecological situation would most likely have 5 components

1. Properties (P; state variables)

2. Forces (E; forcing functions) which are outside energy sources or casual forces that drive the system.

3. Flow pathways (F) showing where energy or material transfers connect properties with each other and other forces

4. Interactions (I; interaction functions) where forces and properties interact to modify and amplify or control flows

5. Feedback loops (L) where an output loops back to influence an 'upstream' component or flow



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