Natural ecosystems such as lakes, grasslands, and forests undergo succession from their early stages of development to maturity, when the community of plants and animals achieves a condition of equilibrium with its physical environment. Because ecosystems succeed in response to either natural or man-made disturbances, it is important to understand how successional behavior arises and how to control it to avoid permanent deterioration of systems indispensable for our survival. Understanding how to use succession as a constructive ecological force is particularly important as short supplies and rising costs of fossil fuels inhibit the intensive use of ecosystems for food production.
Ecologists and land-use managers, as well as system dynamics students and practitioners, will be interested in this quantitative analysis of dynamic ecological processes. The authors are engineers who share the conviction that system dynamics provides a methodology that is particularly applicable to analysis and modeling of large-scale ecosystems so that better utilization policies can be designed. In this book they integrate the available empirical evidence on succession into a dynamic model that accounts for successional modes of behavior as they arise from the internal structure of the ecosystem. The model is fully documented so that each assumption and parameter can be reviewed and criticized by the reader.