The Application Of Fractal Geometry To Ecology Essay

The Application Of Fractal Geometry To Ecology Essay

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The Application of Fractal Geometry to Ecology

Abstract

New insights into the natural world are just a few of the results from the use
of fractal geometry. Examples from population and landscape ecology are used to
illustrate the usefulness of fractal geometry to the field of ecology. The
advent of the computer age played an important role in the development and
acceptance of fractal geometry as a valid new discipline. New insights gained
from the application of fractal geometry to ecology include: understanding the
importance of spatial and temporal scales; the relationship between landscape
structure and movement pathways; an increased understanding of landscape
structures; and the ability to more accurately model landscapes and ecosystems.
Using fractal dimensions allows ecologists to map animal pathways without
creating an unmanageable deluge of information. Computer simulations of
landscapes provide useful models for gaining new insights into the coexistence
of species. Although many ecologists have found fractal geometry to be an
extremely useful tool, not all concur. With all the new insights gained through
the appropriate application of fractal geometry to natural sciences, it is clear
that fractal geometry a useful and valid tool.

New insight into the natural world is just one of the results of the increasing
popularity and use of fractal geometry in the last decade. What are fractals and
what are they good for? Scientists in a variety of disciplines have been trying
to answer this question for the last two decades. Physicists, chemists,
mathematicians, biologists, computer scientists, and medical researchers are
just a few of the scientists that have found uses for fractals and fractal
geometry.

Ecologists have found fractal geometry to be an extremely useful tool for
describing ecological systems. Many population, community, ecosystem, and
landscape ecologists use fractal geometry as a tool to help define and explain
the systems in the world around us. As with any scientific field, there has been
some dissension in ecology about the appropriate level of study. For example,
some organism ecologists think that anything larger than a single organism
obscures the reality with too much detail. On the other hand, some ecosystem
ecologists believe that looking at anything less than an entire ecosystem will
not gi...


... middle of paper ...


...l Geometry is not the geometry of nature. Studies in
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Shibusawa, S. 1994. Modeling the branching growth fractal pattern of the maize
root system. Plant and Soil. 165: 339-347.

Simberloff, D., P. Betthet, V. Boy, S. H. Cousins, M.-J. Fortin, R. Goldburg, L.
P. Lefkovitch, B. Ripley, B. Scherrer, and D. Tonkyn. 1987. Novel statistical
analyses in terrestrial animal ecology: dirty data and clean questions. pp. 559-
572 in Developments in Numerical Ecology. P. Legendre and L. Legendre, eds. NATO
ASI Series. Vol. G14. Springer, Berlin.

Turner, M. G. 1989. Landscape ecology; the effect of pattern on process. Annual
Rev. Ecological Syst. 20:171-197.

Vedyushkin, M. A. 1993. Fractal properties of forest spatial structure.
Vegetatio. 113: 65-70.

Voss, R. F. 1988. Fractals in Nature: From Characterization to Simulation. pp.
21- 70. in The Science of Fractal Images. H.-O. Peitgen and D. Saupe, eds.
Springer- Verlag, New York.

Wiens, J. A., Crist, T. O., Milne, B. 1993. On quantifying insect movements.
Environmental Entomology. 22(4): 709-715.

Thomsen, D. E. 1980. Making music--Fractally. Science News. 117:187-190.

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