The Application Of Fractal Geometry To Ecology

3093 words - 12 pages

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 give meaningful results. In reality, both perspectives are correct.
Ecologists must take all levels of organization into account to get the most out
of a study. Fractal geometry is a tool that bridges the "gap" between different
fields of ecology and provides a common language.

Fractal geometry has provided new insight into many fields of ecology. Examples
from population and landscape ecology will be used to illustrate the usefulness
of fractal geometry to the field of ecology. Some population ecologists use
fractal geometry to correlate the landscape structure with movement...

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