Is the Energy Systems Language useful in systems ecology? It is developed by Howard T. Odum, "the father of system ecology", to make analogies between ecological systems and electronic circuits. But how far this analogy remains correct? What important results have been found from it? Is it widely used by ecologists in other subfields? If yes, then why isn't it applied to other fields?

]([Systems ecology - Wikipedia

Related: What are the branches of system ecology?


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Energy systems language is definitely still used in systems ecology, ecosystems ecology, and ecological engineering. It can be used in other aspects of ecology depending on the approach of the ecologist, some ecologists appreciate it more than others. For a broad snapshot of how science is currently building upon Odum's 1983 Intro to Systems Ecology, check out a Google Scholar search for the latest papers citing that text by Odum.

In my experience with it, energy systems language and energy flow diagrams introduced by Odum are used as helpful conceptual tools: understanding and organizing complex systems qualitatively and then potentially quantitatively; putting useful constraints and guidelines on brainstorming the effects of adjustments to complex systems; etc. This can be done in a teaching context, helping students understand systems and bridging the fields of engineering and ecology. It can also be done in a high-level professional context, sorting out the intricacies and potential solutions of very complex environmental problems.

I find that energy systems language is used most wherever the study of complexity and ecology intersect. This is especially true in the study of ecological complex adaptive systems and in studying agro-ecology. Even in those cases it depends on the ecologist in question: those with more of an engineering background tend to appreciate Odum's framework, whereas those without an engineering background may rely on other frameworks.

  • $\begingroup$ Can you list some other frameworks? What are the differences between them? $\endgroup$
    – Ooker
    Commented Jul 20, 2018 at 3:12
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Ooker Outline of ecology lists various ones, especially Landscape Ecology under "Level of Complexity" and all those under "By technique used for investigation" and "By environmental approach". Those all offer distinct ways of exploring ecology, and the same ecological phenomenon could be explored quite differently using those different approaches & frameworks (systems ecology being one of them). The eco-involved interdiscplinary fields will often have frameworks from the discipline(s) they combine with ecology, e.g. accounting in eco-econ. $\endgroup$
    – cr0
    Commented Jul 20, 2018 at 13:29

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