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THE ECONOMY OF NATURE
[T]he study of the regulation of animal numbers
forms about half the subject of ecology, although it
has hitherto been almost untouched.
... Charles Elton is nowhere near as famous as Darwin or Malthus, but he is known to biologists as the founder of modern ecology, and the central mystery that gripped him was how the numbers of animals are regulated.
While previous naturalists had seen a community as one entity, or as a collection of species, Elton took a novel, functional approach. It was obvious to Elton that in the economy of Arctic islands, the precious commodity was food. So he traced where every creature’s food came from.
But the connections among the inhabitants of the tundra extended far beyond a few animals. The droppings from the seabirds contained nitrogen, which was used by bacteria, which nourished plants, which produced food for insects, both of which were consumed by land birds (ptarmigan, sandpiper), which in turn were food for the arctic fox. In this manner, the food chains in a community were connected into larger networks that Elton dubbed foodcycles, later called food webs. Elton drew a schematic of these chains and webs, the first of its kind, in a paper published with Summerhayes in 1923. (Figure 2.3)
Very readable 17 pages.
Also look up
Hairston, Nelson G., Frederick E. Smith, and Lawrence B. Slobodkin. "Community Structure, Population Control, and Competition." The American Naturalist 94, no. 879 (1960): 421-25. JSTOR: Access Check
... known as the "Why is the world green" paper.
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Edited by RAZD, : .
Edited by RAZD, : added info