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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

(p.3) 1. Introducing the thought experiment
Fundamental Processes in Ecology

David M. Wilkinson

Oxford University Press

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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