Ecological Theory & Ecological Management: Beyond Equilibrium

ecological theory research project

This project looks at the implications of recent conceptual and theoretical changes in ecology for the more applied branches of ecology, like conservation and restoration ecology. Four research axes are developed: 1) Changes in the representation of nature in contemporary ecology: non-equilibrium or path dependence? 2) What is resilience thinking and why is it a better approach to sustainability? 3) Environmental decisions in complex and unpredictable situations: the need for robustness analysis and 4) The problem of defining what is worth preserving and restoring.


  • Gillian Barker (Rotman Institute of Philosophy; Western University)

  • Eric Desjardins (Rotman Institute of Philosophy; Western University)


For decades agricultural and ecological systems have been managed in order to achieve efficiency and maximize productivity. This approach to ecological management was supported by the view that ecological systems have an inherent tendency to balance themselves and reach their natural equilibrium. The belief that undisturbed ecological systems tend to remain in their natural state is a very pervasive and influential driver of ecological management. However, ecologists have accumulated evidence that this representation of ecological systems is inaccurate. This project investigates new developments in ecological theory and empirical research, and their implications for conservation and restoration ecology, and sustainability planning.

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