Towards a cohesive understanding of ecological complexity

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Federico Riva, Caio Graco-Roza, Gergana N. Daskalova, Emma Judith Hudgins, Jayme May Marie Lewthwaite, Erica Newman, Masahiro Ryo, Stefano Mammola 


Understanding phenomena typical of complex systems is key for progress in ecology and conservation amidst escalating global environmental change. However, myriad definitions of complexity hamper conceptual advancements and synthesis. Ecological complexity may be better understood by following the strong theoretical basis of complexity science. We conduct bibliometric and text-mining analyses to characterize articles that refer to ecological complexity in the literature, in relation to features of complex systems described within complexity science. Our analyses demonstrate that the study of ecological complexity is a global, increasingly common, but highly heterogeneous endeavor that is only weakly related to complexity science. Current research trends are typically organized around basic theory, scaling, and macroecology. To increase clarity, we propose streamlining the study of ecological complexity around specific features of complex systems in lieu of the vague term “complexity”, embracing complexity science, appreciating different philosophies, and integrating ideas from researchers beyond the “Global North”.



Bioinformatics, Biology, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Life Sciences, Systems Biology



Published: 2022-04-14 23:34


CC-By Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International

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Will be available following publication.