A procedure for multidisciplinary ecosystem research: with reference to the South African Savanna Ecosystem Project.
A procedure is required for ecosystem studies which is ordered but flexible and directs workers quickly and inexpensively towards answers to key ecological and management questions. The procedure presented develops an increasingly complex description of the ecosystem. The initial phase consists of a structural and dynamic description of the ecosystem, followed by a description of its utilization. From this phase, key questions are elaborated and, where appropriate, mathematical models are then constructed. The South African Savanna Ecosystem Project (SASEP) provides an example of the manner in which the procedure can be applied. Examples of key ecological questions are cited, and appropriate models for some of these are described. The use of the approach in the SASEP is described by reference to its current objectives, defined in terms of 12 key questions.