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    Description

    A variety of physical factors such as climatic and geologic conditions and the ecological processes that take place within habitats such as succession, self-organization, and evolution generate novelty in ecosystems (sensu Radeloff et al., 2015). Hutchinson (1965) united the physical and ecological sources of novelty in his classic essay titled the ecological theater and evolutionary play. In Hutchinson’s construct, ecological novelty was the result of an evolving process (the evolutionary play) taking place within the ecological context of the habitat (the ecological theater). Hutchinson’s students later modified this construct to include the effect of the evolutionary play on the theater, that is, the evolutionary play was not only affected by changing environmental conditions but also affected the conditions under which the plot was developing. In the Anthropocene, the fundamental processes for generating novelty in ecosystems have not changed, but the theater has significantly changed because the increased scale of human activity has unraveled new forces of change made possible by the combustion of fossil fuels. As a result, the plot of the evolutionary play (i.e., the evolutionary process) has accelerated (Cox, 2004) in the ecological theater of contemporary ecosystems directly or indirectly shaped by humans.

    Publication Notes

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    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.

    Citation

    Lugo, A.E.; Winchell, K.M.; Carlo, T.A. 2018. Novelty in Ecosystems. In: Dominick A. DellaSala, and Michael I. Goldstein (eds.) The Encyclopedia of the Anthropocene, vol. 3, p. 259-271. Oxford: Elsevier.

    Keywords

    novelty, ecosystems, succession, disturbance, habitat.

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