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  • Print publication year: 2021
  • Online publication date: February 2021

6 - Emergence of Cross-Scale Structural and Functional Processes in Ecosystem Science


Fundamental knowledge about the processes that control the functioning of the biophysical workings of ecosystems has expanded exponentially since the late 1960s. Scientists, then, had only primitive knowledge about C, N, P, S, and H2O cycles; plant, animal, and soil microbial interactions and dynamics; and land, atmosphere, and water interactions. With the advent of systems ecology paradigm (SEP) and the explosion of technologies supporting field and laboratory research, scientists throughout the world were able to assemble the knowledge base known today as ecosystem science. This chapter describes, through the eyes of scientists associated with the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory (NREL) at Colorado State University (CSU), the evolution of the SEP in discovering how biophysical systems at small scales (ecological sites, landscapes) function as systems. The NREL and CSU are epicenters of the development of ecosystem science. Later, that knowledge, including humans as components of ecosystems, has been applied to small regions, regions, and the globe. Many research results that have formed the foundation for ecosystem science and management of natural resources, terrestrial environments, and its waters are described in this chapter. Throughout are direct and implicit references to the vital collaborations with the global network of ecosystem scientists.

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