Books : reviews

Howard T. Odum.
Ecological and General Systems: an introduction to systems ecology: revised edn.
University Press of Colorado. 1994

Using an energy systems language that combines energetics, kinetics, information, cybernetics, and simulation, Ecological and General Systems compares models of many fields of science, helping to derive general systems principles.

First published as Systems Ecology in 1983, Ecological and General Systems proposes principles of self-organization and the designs that prevail by maximising power and efficiency. Comparisons to fifty other systems languages are provided. Innovative presentations are given on earth homeostasis (Gaia); the inadequacy of presenting equations without network relationships and energy constraints; the alternative interpretation of high entropy complexity as adaptive structure; basic equations of ecological economics; and the energy basis of scientific hierarchy.

Part I introduces energetics, hierarchy, and systems modelling. Part II features design elements: intersections, autocatalytic modules, loops, series, parallel elements, and webs. Part III includes embodied energy, spectra of energy quality, temperature, complexity, spatial distribution, and diversity. Part IV discusses production, consumption, ecosystems, succession, economic systems, anthropological models, urban and regional models, global biogeochemistry, and the universe.

Howard T. Odum, Elisabeth C. Odum.
Modeling for all Scales: an introduction to system simulation.
Academic Press. 2000

All manner of models are used to describe, simulate, extrapolate, and ultimately understand the function of dynamic systems. These sorts of models are usually based upon a mathematical foundation that can be difficult to manipulate especially for students. Modeling for all Scales uses object-oriented programming to erect and evaluate the efficacy of models of small-, intermediate- and large scale systems. Such models allow users to employ intuitively based symbols and a systems ecology approach. The authors, leaders in the systems ecology community, have originated much of the scientific vocabulary of the field. After an introduction to modeling and its benefits, several chapters detailing the more particular elements of successful simulation are followed by another series of chapters, each devoted to models of different sorts of systems. Small-scale models of growth, competition, and evolution give way, successively, to larger and larger scale models such as international trade and the global geobiosphere. Anyone interested in an easy-to-use approach to modeling complex systems authored by perhaps the most original systems ecologists of the century will want this book.