Understanding Complex Ecosystem Dynamics: A Systems and Engineering Perspective takes a fresh, interdisciplinary perspective on complex system dynamics. The text begins with a discussion of relevant systems and engineering skills and practices, including an explanation of the systems approach and its major elements. From this perspective, the author formulates an ecosystem dynamics functionality-based framework to guide ecological investigations.
Next, because complex system theory (across many subject matter areas) is crucial to the work of this book, relevant network theory, nonlinear dynamics theory, cellular automata theory, and roughness (fractal) theory is covered in some detail. This material serves as an important resource as the book proceeds. In the context of all of the foregoing discussion and investigation, a view of the characteristics of ecological network dynamics is constructed. This view, in turn, is the basis for the central hypothesis of the book, i.e., ecological networks are ever-changing networks with propagation dynamics that are punctuated, local-to-global, and perhaps most importantly, fractal. To analyze and fully test this hypothesis, an innovative ecological network dynamics model is defined, designed, and developed. The modeling approach, which seeks to emulate features of real-world ecological networks, does not make priori assumptions about ecological network dynamics, but rather lets the dynamics develop as the model simulation runs. Model analysis results corroborate the central hypothesis. Additional important insights and principles are suggested by the model analysis results and by the other supporting investigations of this book―and can serve as a basis for going-forward complex system dynamics research, not only for ecological systems, but for complex systems in general.
An appendix of MATLAB code is included that establishes model network structure and relationships to code and describes and implements ecosystem dynamics analysis activities. In addition, the complete MATLAB code examples are available for download.