Accounting of material and energy flows has long been an important tool in ecosystem ecology. But each material is usually handled separately and independently. The connections between materials, energy, plants, animals, etc. have not been incorporated into the accounting framework, and "service" or information flows (such as flower pollination by bees) are usually ignored. We develop a general accounting framework that addresses this deficiency. In our framework, each connection (both physical and informational) can be unambiguously assigned, quantified, and qualified, and an input-output balance is easily checked and maintained for each product. Costly independent data collections can be integrated into this common framework to amplify their original usefulness and provide the investigator or ecosystem manager with enhanced understanding of the entire ecosystem from which they were taken. The integrated data also allow various ecosystem models to be constructed efficiently, without unnecessary and costly duplication of effort. We present detailed guidelines for construction of such a framework, followed by examples and applications.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics