Interactive Poster

Systems Ecology - An approach for integrating
and scaling of ecological processes


Poster location: CNR, 2nd floor, NE side of elevator

  Build a systems model that represents all of the interactions and flows in the ecological system
shown on the poster.

Use a systems model to integrate and scale ecological processes from the molecular to ecosystem levels.

Understand the structure and function of ecological systems so that: (1) ecosystems can be properly managed, (2) the response of ecosystems to future disturbances can be predicted, and (3) damaged ecosystems can be restored to be fully functional and stable.

Introduction to Systems Ecology*


Model symbolsChallenge


Suggested software for developing systems modeling


*Turn off all pop-up blockers | Windows-based computers only


Common symbols used in systems modeling

Elements of the model


State variable

Rate variable
Driving variable (also, decision)

Source and sink



Build a systems model that illustrates all components and interactions that determine the incident radiation on a leaf. Start with the uppermost leaf of the young balsamroot plant shown in the photograph. Then, added more complexity in the model by accounting for variations in leaf form, leaf surface characteristics, location (e.g., slope, aspect, latitude, etc.), and environmental factors that influence incident radiation.

Note that systems models may seem initially easy and simple to develop, accounting for each step (source, sink, state and driving variables, feedbacks, etc.) and the interactions can lead to a very detailed and complex systems model. That's life.


Elements of the model


Extraterrestrial solar radiation  
Global radiation  
Direct solar radiation  
Diffuse solar radiation (also, scattered)  
Stratospheric ozone