New definitions of the concepts and terms ecosystem and biogeocenosis
ABSTRACT This article was awarded a Diploma to certify its scientific value (at a scientific conference, July 1, 2014). The article was bookmarked by ResearchGate members.
At World Catalog, the paper was reviewed and rated as excellent.
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New contemporary, modernized, improved ecosystem definition.
This is the text of the review of a WorldCat user and expert Professor K. (WorldCat user published moments ago) :
"In this excellent and useful article the author, a Fulbright Award recipient, formulated a new, contemporary, modernized, improved ecosystem definition. The new definition is free from many shortcomings of the traditional ecosystem definitions. The traditional definitions are outdated and self-contradictory.
This paper is very useful to scientists, professors, students. My strongest recommendations, I recommend this really outstanding and very useful paper to all. ..."
Ostroumov S.A. New definitions of the concepts and terms ecosystem and biogeocenosis. - Doklady Biological Sciences, 2002 (March), Volume 383, p. 141-143. [MAIK Nauka/Interperiodica distributed by Springer Science+Business Media LLC. ISSN 0012-4966 (Print) 1608-3105 (Online)]. In 1935, the term 'ecosystem' was coined by A. Tansley. In the 1940s, another important term 'biogeocoenosis' was introduced by V. N. Sukachev. Since that time, a significant amount of new facts was accumulated in ecology. It is necessary to revisit the formulation of the basic concepts and terms in ecology, including the two terms mentioned above. The author proposed some new variants of the definition of the two terms that (1) reflect the modern vision of the basics of ecology; and (2) avoid the vicious circle of using other terms that in turn request their definitions. The author realizes that the new variants of the terms cannot be ideal and some other variants of the definitions are also possible. 5 specific features of the proposed definition of ecosystem (Table 1). 8 specific features of the proposed definition of biogeocenosis, and 8 distinctions between the proposed definition and the classical definition by V.N.Sukachev (Table 2)].
Russian version of the paper: http://scipeople.ru/publication/66938/;
Russian version of the paper: New variants of the definitions of the concepts and terms 'ecosystem' and 'biogeocoenosis' - DAN. 2002. v383. No. 4. p.571-573.
Key terms and issues:
ecosystem, A. Tansley, biogeocoenosis, V. N. Sukachev, basic concepts and terms in ecology, basics of ecology, theoretical biology, fundamental concepts, trophic chains, modern conceptualization, populations, interorganismal interactions, levels of life systems, biotic-abiotic interactions, definition, how to define ecosystem;
What are the current (contemporary, modern, up-to-date, updated) definitions of "ecosystem" and "biogeocoenosis"? new approach, definitions and terms, modernization and updating of the conceptual apparatus, ecology, modern vision, habitat, trophic structure, trophic levels, biocenose, biotope, community, history of science, functions of organisms, impact of organisms on environment, terrestrial, soil, water, systems, dynamics of communities, fluctuations, succession, improving education, teaching ecology, environmental science, interactions, ecological links, biosphere.
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Supplementary Resources - the full text of a related, relevant Russian paper: Остроумов С.А. Концепции экологии "экосистема", "биогеоценоз", "границы экосистем": поиск
новых определений // Вестник МГУ. Серия 16. Биология. 2003. № 3. С.43-50. Табл. Рез. на англ.
яз. Библиогр. 44 назв. [Нов. трактовка, нов. варианты определений. Перечисляются и
обосновываются отличия новых определений от ранее существовавших. Предлагается выделить 2
типа неопределенности границ экосистемы (с.46-48). Сформулирована новая концепция
двухзонального (двухконтурного) пространственного строения экосистем (с.48)].
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ABSTRACT: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/265053987_Biophysics_biochemistry_biosystem_studies._Fundamental_research_and_applications_Results_and_bibliography ; Abstract. Orlov S.N., Kotelevtsev S.V., Novikov K.N., Selishcheva A.A., Akimova O.A., Ostroumov S.A. Biophysics, biochemistry, biosystem studies. Fundamental research and applications: Results and bibliography.- Moscow, 2014, 180 p. (Eds: Orlov S.N., Kotelevtsev S.V., Ostroumov S.A.) The goal of this publication is to present some of results of the experimental research of interdisciplinary topics of life sciences in the Laboratory of Physico-Chemistry of Biological Membranes, Faculty of Biology, M.V.Lomonosov Moscow State University. The material is organized into six main sections with information of scientific results, and an additional section 7. The final, seventh section is on publications of educational materials, improving university education, including textbooks and educational programs on issues of biological and environmental education. This text is in part based on the previous publication (Orlov S.N., Kotelevtsev S.V., Novikov K.N., Selishcheva A.A., Akimova O.A., Ostroumov S.A. Toxicology, biophysics. from fundamental biomedical research to applications. Some results and bibliography // Ecological Studies, Hazards, Solutions, 2013, vol.19, p. 9-28), with many additions and updating. Орлов С.Н., Котелевцев С.В., Новиков К.Н., Селищева А.А., Акимова О. А., Остроумов С. А. Исследования биофизики, биохимии, биосистем. Фундаментальные исследования и приложения: Результаты и библиография - Москва, 2014. 180 с. (Ред. Орлов С.Н., Котелевцев С.В., Остроумов С. А.). Представлены некоторые из результатов экспериментальных исследований в области наук о жизни в лаборатории физико-химии биологических мембран биологического факультета Московского государственного университета им. М.В. Ломоносова. Материал состоит из шести основных разделов с информацией о научных результатах и дополнительного седьмого раздела. Последний, седьмой раздел содержит информацию о публикациях различных учебных и учебно-методических материалов, работ о совершенствовании университетского образования, в том числе учебников и образовательных программ по вопросам биологического и экологического образования. Этот текст частично основан на предыдущей публикации (Orlov S.N., Kotelevtsev S.V., Novikov K.N., Selishcheva A.A., Akimova O.A., Ostroumov S.A. Toxicology, biophysics. from fundamental biomedical research to applications. Some results and bibliography // Ecological Studies, Hazards, Solutions, 2013, vol.19, p. 9-28), со многими дополнениями и существенным обновлением материала. Introduction. The goal of this publication is to present some of results of experimental research of interdisciplinary topics of life sciences in the Laboratory of Physico-Chemistry of Biological Membranes, Faculty of Biology, Moscow State University. The material is organized into 6 main sections with information of scientific results, and an additional section 7. The final, seventh section is on publications of educational materials, improving university education, including textbooks and educational programs on issues of biological and environmental education. This text is in part based on the previous publication (Orlov S.N., Kotelevtsev S.V., Novikov K.N., Selishcheva A.A., Akimova O.A., Ostroumov S.A. Toxicology, biophysics. from fundamental biomedical research to applications. Some results and bibliography // Ecological Studies, Hazards, Solutions, 2013, vol.19, p. 9-28), with many additions and updating.edited by Orlov S.N., Kotelevtsev S.V., Ostroumov S.A., 01/2014; Moscow State University, Moscow.
0012-4966/02/0304-$27.00 © 2002 MAIK “Nauka/Interperiodica”
Doklady Biological Sciences, Vol. 383, 2002, pp. 141–143. Translated from Doklady Akademii Nauk, Vol. 383, No. 4, 2002, pp. 571–573.
Original Russian Text Copyright © 2002 by Ostroumov.
The terms ecosystem and biogeocenosis were
coined by Tansley in 1935  and by Sukachev in the
1940s , respectively. These terms are widely used in
biological research [3–10], and there are several defini-
tions of the term ecosystem [4–8]. However, a large
body of new biological information has been accumu-
lated since the time of introduction of these terms.
Therefore, a revision of the currently accepted concepts
of natural objects and interpretation of basic ecological
terms (e.g., ecosystem and biogeocenosis) may be pro-
posed. It seems reasonable to continue the search for
new variants of definitions of these terms.
The goal of this work was to contribute to this
search by suggesting and substantiating specific defini-
tions of two basic ecological terms. I certainly realize
that this problem is very complex and its exhaustive
solution is practically unattainable, because it is impos-
sible to find an ideal definition that would be adequate
to all imaginable situations or satisfy all experts. Nev-
ertheless, it is worth trying to propose modern variants
of refined definitions capable of taking into account
large volumes of new information concerning aquatic
[6, 11–15] and terrestrial [7, 9, 10, 14] ecosystems.
Sometimes, the terms used in the definition require
additional explanation themselves (e.g., trophic struc-
ture, biocenosis, community, etc.) . For example,
according to a typical definition, ecosystem is a biolog-
ical community together with its physical environment
(see p. 679 in ). However, this definition by no
means reflects the whole body of experimental findings
and theoretical concepts accumulated in ecology dur-
ing the past decades. Given the remarks made above in
this work, the following variant of definition can be
is the complex of interconnected living
organisms inhabiting particular area or unit of space,
together with their environment and all their interrela-
tionships and relationships with the environment. Eco-
system is characterized by the description of popula-
tions (abundance) of individual species; interspecies
relationships; activity of organisms; physical and
chemical characteristics of environment; flows of mat-
ter, energy, and information; and description of changes
of these parameters with time.
This definition does not contain terms such as
trophic structure, trophic levels, biocenosis, biotope,
community, components, systems, and succession.
Because this definition is applicable to both aquatic and
terrestrial ecosystems, as well as to natural or model
systems of various ranges and degrees of complexity, it
seems to be quite universal. Specific features of this
definition and their substantiation are briefly summa-
rized in Table 1.
The term biogeocenosis, suggested in the early
1940s by Sukachev , has gained wide recognition [7,
8]. This term is widely used in ecological research. The
classical definition given by Sukachev is cited in many
manuals and textbooks. However, a large body of new
ecological information accumulated since the time of
introduction of the term makes it reasonable to consider
new variants of the definition. These definitions should
take into account both recent progress in biological
research and specific features of the current practice of
the use of this term. For example, many researchers
apply this term to aquatic ecosystems. To be applicable
to aquatic ecosystems, the original definition of this
term should be revised. According to the modern taxo-
nomic system, fungi are excluded from the plant king-
dom. New findings show that the information flow
plays a significant role in the organization of superor-
ganism structures [9, 14]. Based on a modified defini-
tion of V.N. Sukachev, the following definition of bio-
geocenosis can be suggested:
nents (atmosphere, rocks, plants, animals, representa-
tives of microorganisms and fungi, soil and hydrologi-
cal conditions, and bottom sediments in the case of
aquatic systems) in a particular area of land or water.
Biogeocenosis is characterized by specific relation-
ships between components; specific types of matter,
energy, and information flows providing a certain
degree of integrity (unity of components, indivisibility)
is an aggregate of natural compo-
New Definitions of the Concepts and Terms Ecosystem
S. A. Ostroumov
Presented by Academician L.M. Sushchenya November 14, 2001
Received December 6, 2001
Moscow State University, Vorob’evy gory, Moscow,
DOKLADY BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES
Specific features of the definition of ecosystem proposed in this work
No.Specific feature of the definitionBrief substantiation
Examples and comment
on the preceding column
1 Indication that “living organisms
inhabit a particular area or unit of
The universality of the definition is
increased to include situations with
aquatic and soil systems in which
organisms inhabit the bulk of the
water or the bulk of the soil
Biological organisms may inhabit a conside-
rable fraction (in terms of size and environmen-
tal diversity) of the system volume in the bulk
of the water  and the bulk of the soil 
2 Direct indication to the ecosystem
characteristics that are important
for its description
The definition is more plain and
specific; the importance of biolo-
gical and nonbiological (physical
and chemical) characteristics of the
system is emphasized
The following characteristics have been shown
to be necessary: abundance of individual spe-
cies, interrelationships between them [4, 7, 8],
specific physical and chemical environmental
parameters [6, 10], seasonal and succession
changes and their dynamics with time
3 Activity of organisms is put on
the list of ecosystem characteris-
tics required for its description
The importance of the physiological
activity of organisms (e.g., the rate of
photosynthesis, primary productivity,
community respiration rate, rate of
water filtration by hydrobionts, etc.)
Type and functions of ecosystem are mainly
determined by its productivity , which
depends on the physiological activity of
organisms. The rate of water filtration by
hydrobionts is important to maintain the
water quality in aquatic ecosystems at a
sufficiently high level [11, 15]
4Flows of matter and energy have
been introduced instead of the
terms “turnover of matter and
energy” or “exchange of matter
and energy between system
The essence of the processes of matter
and energy transfer is defined more
accurately; because some of these pro-
cesses are unidirectional, the term flow
is more correct than the term exchange
Transfer of pollutants (including radionu-
clides) along the trophic chain is unidirec-
tional . Transfer of matter and some
chemical elements (C, N, P, Si, Al)
by pellets settling in water  is also an
example of unidirectional transfer (along
the vector of gravity force)
5Flows of information have been
introduced in addition to flows
of matter and energy
Flows of information are important to
provide contact between organisms,
regulation of their interaction in the
ecosystem, and ecosystem stability
There are many examples of information
transfer by pheromones , attractants,
deterrents, and other ecologically important
substances produced by organisms 
and their changes with time. Organisms usually con-
tribute to environment formation or modification.
Specific features of the new definition and its com-
parison with the classical Sukachev’s definition  are
briefly described in Table 2. The following specific fea-
tures of the variant should be emphasized.
(1) Taking into consideration the modern concept of
natural systems called biogeocenoses, the words about
water surface; fungi; and flows of matter, energy, and
information have been added; a new conclusion was
(2) The word “uniformity” is omitted (in the defini-
tion by Sukachev it was used in the context of uniform
natural phenomena); the word “exchange” (in the con-
text of energy and matter exchange) has been replaced
by “flows”; the last part of the definition has been omit-
ted (replaced by a new variant discussed above).
(3) It has been noted that living organisms usually
contribute to environment formation or modification.
(4) The problem of unity of the system’s compo-
nents is considered as adequately and carefully as pos-
sible (“a certain degree of integrity” has been
(5) It is noted that biogeocenoses tend to change
I realize that the variant of definition suggested in
this work is far from ideal. In many cases other variants
of definition of the term ecosystem are more useful [3–
8]. I hope that the use and discussion of different vari-
ants will promote further progress in the development
of the definitions of these basic terms. The evolution of
the terms inevitably occurs as new ecological data, are
I am grateful to V.D Fedorov, G.V. Dobrovol’skii,
E.A. Kriksunov, V.L. Kontrimavichus, V.N. Maksimov,
A.S. Vladychenskii, A.P. Melikyan and many other col-
leagues from Moscow State University and Russian
Academy of Sciences for stimulating discussion of
general ecological problems. I am also grateful to Aca-
DOKLADY BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES
NEW DEFINITIONS OF THE CONCEPTS AND TERMS ECOSYSTEM AND BIOGEOCENOSIS143
demician L.M. Sushchenya for reviewing the manu-
script, to V.L. Kas’yanov, V.N. Pavlov, and A.I. Azovskii
for valuable criticism of the preliminary version of the
manuscript, and to Dr. Peter J. Wangersky for useful
This study was supported by IBG.
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2. Sukachev, V.N.,
ingrad: Nauka, 1972, vol. 1.
3. Odum, Yu.P.,
Fundamentals of Ecology
Saunders, 1971, vols. 1, 2.
4. Fedorov, V.D. and Gil’manov, T.G.,
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Oxford: Blackwell Sci., 1996.
6. Alimov, A.F.,
Elementy teorii funktsionirovaniya vod-
(Principles of the Theory of Aquatic Eco-
system Functions), St. Petersburg: Nauka, 2000.
7. Shilov, I.A.,
(Ecology), Moscow: Vysshaya
8. Rozenberg, G.S., Mozgovoi, D.P., and Gelashvili, D.B.,
Ekologiya: elementy teoreticheskikh konstruktsii sovre-
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(Selected Works), Len-
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(Interaction between the Tree
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pochv kak nezamenimogo komponenta biosfery
vation of Soils As an Indispensable Component of the
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sphere), Moscow: MAKS, 2000.
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, 2001, vol. 379, no. 3, pp. 426–429.
13. Matishov, D.G. and Matishov, G.G.,
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Dokl. Akad. Nauk
, 2002, vol. 382,
Specific features of the definition of biogeocenosis proposed in this work (see the text)
Difference from the classical
definition by Sukachev (1972) 
The universality of the definition and its
applicability to aquatic systems is emphasized
1“Land and water surface” is used instead of “land
The term “uniform phenomena” is omitted
The universality of the definition and its applicability to aquatic
systems is emphasized
Studies performed in the past decades gave many examples of
heterogeneity of some parameters (temperature, illuminance, etc.)
and variability of these parameters within the biogeocenosis.
Synusias and consortiums are other examples of heterogeneity 
Fungi were previously assigned to plants; however, according to the
modern taxonomic system, they are excluded from the plant kingdom
The universality of the definition and its applicability to aquatic
systems is emphasized
This substitution is required to provide higher accuracy, because, in
many cases, unidirectional flows rather than bidirectional exchange
Studies performed in the past decades gave many examples of the
important role of information transfer in the processes of formation
of multiple connections and interactions between the components
of biogeocenoses [8, 9, 14]
It is emphasized that living organisms are involved in environment
formation and modification. The examples of this involvement have
been presented by many authors in studies on terrestrial (soil) 
and aquatic [11, 15] systems
More specific expressions are used; the possibility of changes with
time is emphasized. Specific features of community dynamics (re-
versible and irreversible changes, including seasonal and circadian
rhythms, fluctuations, successions, etc.) were extensively discussed
in ecological literature [2–5, 7, 8]
3Fungi are added to the list of biotic components
4Bottom sediments are added to the list of
The word “exchange” in the expression “exchange of
matter and energy” is replaced by the word “flows”
6The word “information” is added to the expression
“flows of matter and energy”
7It is noted that living organisms usually contribute
to environment formation or modification
8The last part of the definition is omitted and re-
placed by a new variant