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Tuesday, January 25, 2011


The balance of nature refers to the theory that ecological systems are usually in a stable equilibrium (homeostasis), which is to say that a small change in some particular parameter (the size of a particular population, for example) will be corrected by some negative feedback that will bring the parameter back to its original "point of balance" with the rest of the system. It may apply where populations depend on each other, for example in predator/prey systems, or relationships between herbivores and their food source. It is also sometimes applied to the relationship between the Earth's ecosystem, the composition of the atmosphere, and the world's weather.
The Gaia hypothesis suggests that the Earth and its ecology may act as co-ordinated systems in order to maintain the balance of nature

History of the theory

The concept is very old; Herodotus described the relationship between predator and prey species, and commented on how they were in an essentially static balance, with predators never excessively consuming their prey populations.The "balance of nature" concept once ruled ecological research, as well as once governing the management of, natural resources. This led to a doctrine popular among some conservationists that nature was best left to its own devices, and that human intervention into it was by definition unacceptable


The concept has been criticised in recent times as being a pseudoscientific fallacy. It was first put into question when a substantial number of studies showed that predator/prey populations display a continuing state of disturbance and fluctuation rather than constancy and balance. It has been proposed by some scientists that ecological communities of plants and animals are inherently unstable, due to substantial idiosyncratic differences in behavior among communities and individuals in them. An aggressive, dominant wolf for example can greatly increase the chances of a pack in securing food, just as the death of a pack leader can lead to the pack's mass starvation.

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