The idea of 'disturbance' has played contradictory roles in ecological theory. In some cases, disturbances have been viewed as disruptive to ecological systems, whereas in others they have been seen as necessary to maintain ecological systems. In this paper we show that the role of disturbance is dependent on the temporal and spatial characteristics of the systems. Our approach is to examine a variety of ecological models. We divide models into three spatial categories (closed, multicell, and open systems) and three categories of stability (equilibrium, loose equilibrium, and nonequilibrium). In the 'classical' closed equilibrium models of ecology, disturbances act primarily in a destructive way, reducing the ecological structure that can be maintained, whereas in other categories disturbances promote species diversity and richness of spatial pattern. We attempt to make clearer the role of scale in affecting the system properties 'equilibrium vs. nonequilibrium', 'closed vs. open', and the disturbance property 'endogenous vs. exogenous'.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecological Modeling