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Ecological Complexity

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Type: Book Chapter
Author: Myers, N.
Book Title: Tropical Forests and Our Future
Publisher: Norton
Location: New York
Date: 1992
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/89
Sector: Forestry
Subject(s): ecology
Abstract: "However hard it is for me to visualize the scale of biological richness in a tropical forest, I find it far more difficult to imagine the complexity of interactions between plants and animals, and between them and their physical environs. After all, if there are l,000 species within one particular square kilometer of forest, their relationships with each other--their comings and goings, their incessant encounters with associates and enemies--certainly number tens of thousands of interactions, probably hundreds of thousands, possibly many more. I sometimes speculate that, given our scant understanding to date, I likely fail to recognize the very scale of a forest's complex functioning. In other words, I have little idea of how massively complex it is. "Thus it is the complexity of a tropical forest that excites me when I stand amid those stately trunks and their convoluted vegetation abuzz with creatures of myriad forms. Whereas it would take me many moons to identify and document the main species (certainly not all of the species--I would need the rest of my life for that) within l00 meters of where I stand, it would take me many times longer to trace even a portion of their interrelationships, their energy flows, their distinctive roles in the phenomenon that makes up a tropical forest. What I see is probably surpassed in complexity by only one other living entity on Earth--that which is between my ears. Yet how far short is my gray matter from gaining even an intuitive sense of the full intricacy of the scene before me."

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