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The macroecology of sustainability

June 26, 2012

The discipline of sustainability science has emerged in response to concerns of natural and social scientists, policymakers, and lay people about whether the Earth can continue to support human population growth and economic prosperity. Yet, sustainability science has developed largely independently from and with little reference to key ecological principles that govern life on Earth. A macroecological perspective highlights three principles that should be integral to sustainability science: 1) physical conservation laws govern the flows of energy and materials between human systems and the environment, 2) smaller systems are connected by these flows to larger systems in which they are embedded, and 3) global constraints ultimately limit flows at smaller scales. Over the past few decades, decreasing per capita rates of consumption of petroleum, phosphate, agricultural land, fresh water, fish, and wood indicate that the growing human population has surpassed the capacity of the Earth to supply enough of these essential resources to sustain even the current population and level of socioeconomic development.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2012
Title The macroecology of sustainability
DOI 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001345
Authors Joseph R. Burger, Craig D. Allen, James H. Brown, William R. Burnside, Ana D. Davidson, Trevor S. Fristoe, Marcus J. Hamilton, Norman Mercado-Silva, Jeffrey C. Nekola, Jordan G. Okie, Wenyun Zuo
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title PLoS Biology
Series Number
Index ID 70038665
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Fort Collins Science Center

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