chapter  5
32 Pages

Complexity in Ecological Systems

Conceptual Models ......................................................................... 102 5.2.3 Variability and Uncertainty in Managing Complex Systems ......... 103 5.2.4 Trade-Off Analyses ......................................................................... 106 5.2.5 Summary: Systems Simple and Systems Complex ......................... 107

5.3 Integration of Ecology and Economics ......................................................... 107 5.4 An Example of an Ecologist and Economist Discussing Uncertain

Valuation of Habitat Loss with Potential Extinction Risk ............................ 115 5.4.1 Statement of the Problem ................................................................ 116 5.4.2 Available Information ..................................................................... 116 5.4.3 Application of Benefit-Cost Analysis ............................................. 116 5.4.4 Uncertain Future Losses from Extinction....................................... 117 5.4.5 Additional Considerations ............................................................... 118

5.5 Case Study: Extractive Development and the Valuation of Biodiversity and Community Needs in Madagascar ......................................................... 119 5.5.1 Description of Complexities............................................................ 119 5.5.2 The Natural Environment ............................................................... 119 5.5.3 People with Relevant Interests ........................................................ 120 5.5.4 Integrated Solutions ........................................................................ 121 5.5.5 Significant Outcomes and Lessons Learned ................................... 121

5.6 Complexity of the System: CALFED Case Study ........................................ 122 5.7 PCB Case Study ............................................................................................124 5.8 Lessons Learned and Not Learned ............................................................... 125

5.8.1 Integrating Ecology with Economics .............................................. 125 5.8.2 Appreciating and Understanding Complexity ................................ 125

References .............................................................................................................. 127

Complexity is inherent in ecological systems due to the self-organizing, deeply hierarchical nature of energetically open systems (Kay et al. 1999). Humans attempt to manage ecological systems by organizing and evaluating individual components of the system, typically by using mechanistic or other kinds of models that describe, and ideally quantify, specific physical processes. The goal is to capture physical processes and interactions in sufficient detail that the primary mechanisms for responding to changes are quantified, but not so detailed that parameterization and interaction of parameters become intractable. Ecological systems are dynamic and adaptive, and much as we try to understand or model systems from first principles, we have difficulties implementing effective organizational learning in our management of these systems.