Seeing the Species for the Ecosystem

The authors comment that from this perspective, it could be stated that multiccellular beings are also ecosystems. That is, we are formed by different types of cells that cooperate and compete for resources; we are colonized by diverse types of bacteria (in the intestines, in the skin, etc.) whose activity is linked to other processes in our organism: we are invaded by viruses, which can be harmful or can take part in processes that regulate our DNA. "These beings are constantly being changed, in such a way that after a long enough time passes, all of the entities that form us have been substituted one or more times. Nevertheless, throughout the process, we continue to be ourselves. This is the same thing that happens with ecosystems," explains Prof. Cuesta.

The most important implication of this finding is that it forces us to see ecosystems in a different light, as self-contained entities rather than as collections of species. "We are obsessed with the preservation of species, but it is much more important to preserve ecosystems", these scientists point out. Seen this way, for example, at times it could be beneficial to substitute an endangered species with another one – with similar interactions with the other species in the ecosystems – so that the ecosystem will not be threatened, because then we would lose one species, but we would save the ecosystem.

In the field of evolution when the term 'ecosystem' is used, a distinction is always made between species and environment. The former evolves in order to adapt to the latter and it changes along with its environment. In light of of this dichotomy, there is a tendency to think of species and environments as separate entities. However, ecosystems demonstrate that the species themselves form the most important part of the environment or ecosystem. "The species interact: they eat each other, they fight for territory... and this causes the presence or absence of certain species to be the most influential factor in the survival of another species", comments the researcher. "This property that species have, which allows them to generate their own environment and form an ecosystem, is the aspect that we were most interested in when we approached this study", comments José A. Cuesta, who is also part of the Grupo Interdisciplinar de Sistemas Complejos (Complex Systems Interdisciplinary Group) at UC3M.


It is helpful to think of species in the context of the ecosystem in which they live, as they are an part of it, indistinguishable from it in very important ways. Any single species' ecosystem includes all of the other species within it.

Folksonomies: biology gaia environment ecosystem

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 Species are to ecosystems as cells are to the human body, according to a mathematical model
Periodicals>Journal Article:  Herrera, Ana (16-May-2011), Species are to ecosystems as cells are to the human body, according to a mathematical model, Carlos III University of Madrid , Retrieved on 2011-05-17
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  • Folksonomies: gaia