Multi-Scale Integrated Analysis of Agroecosystems: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Multi-Scale Integrated Analysis of Agroecosystems

1st Edition

By Mario Giampietro

CRC Press

472 pages | 135 B/W Illus.

Purchasing Options:$ = USD
Hardback: 9780849310676
pub: 2003-11-24
eBook (VitalSource) : 9780429210907
pub: 2003-11-24
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Ecologists, agronomists, and others who may question the validity of current models for determining sustainable growth of agroecosystems, need a new set of analytical tools that more effectively address the complex nature of related processes. Those who challenge traditional assumptions of optimization and static factors in agricultural modeling demand new methods beyond differential equations and traditional statistical tests.

Multi-Scale Integrated Analysis of Agroecosystems explores alternative ways to study agricultural sustainability, presenting new approaches to organizing data and applying complex systems theory to actual cases. This innovative text recognizes the changing dynamics of the multiple processes and cross-relations within an environment, proposing a clearer analysis of agroecosystems than that which can be provided by rigid, reductionist methods.

Main concepts, new vocabulary and narratives, and practical examples open the book, followed by technical chapters that provide a more detailed explanation of concepts. The final section of the book presents a tool kit based on these concepts, resulting in strong support of empirical observations that challenge traditional notions regarding the sustainability of farming systems, food systems, and agroecosystems.


"Agriculture science as practiced needs to change and it needs a more holistic approach. Giampietro proposes that the best way to investigate sustainability in agricultural systems is to employ multicriteria analysis. This idea has merit."

David Pimentel, Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University

"Rarely does one have the opportunity to read a truly revolutionary book. Multi-Scale Integrated Analysis of Agroecosystems is such a work. Giampietro has written a tour de force. Drawing on his decades of experience in agro-ecosystems, he develops new approaches and concepts that should revolutionize not only the study of agro-ecosystems, but much of the study of human-environment interactions as well. Ranging broadly across the nature of perception and observation, Giampietro develops a philosophical framework for analyzing agro-ecosystems at scales ranging from subsistence farmers to global analyses. The framework that Giampietro develops ties the analysis of agro-ecosystems into important schools of thought ranging from Greek philosophy to contemporary post-modernism. These are synthesized into a profound new approach to sustaining humanity's most important activities. This important book deserves to be widely read. It will be of interest to agricultural economists, anthropologists, economists, philosophers of science, psychologists, sociologists, and others."

Joseph A. Tainter, author of The Collapse of Complex Societies, Albuquerque, New Mexico

"The really outstanding contribution which Mario Giampietro makes in his book is that he tackles one of the most daunting issues our world faces today and seems to get away with it. An increasing number of scientists have observed that our puzzle solving science is a handicap. Our inability to bring ecological and economic issues to bear on one another leads to rapid loss of control over the effect of human activity on ecosystems at all scale levels, and to the anthropogenic destruction of the ecological services on which humans depend. To get out of this impasse it is necessary to develop approaches that can overcome our reductionism and that allow us to truly link the realms of economics and ecology so as to tackle the trade-offs, dilemmas, and develop adaptive management. The originality of Giampietro's work is that it focuses very deliberately on this very complex issue. What is more, his work provides a number of concrete ways forward. In doing so, he opens up a rich world of future research. Giampietro's work is the culmination of a lifetime of struggle and research. I would like to point to the painstaking and careful argumentation with which Giampietro builds up his argument in this very difficult and new area of discourse. Most readers, including myself, will probably reach a limit beyond which they fail to grasp everything Giampietro offers us. But before then, in junction with the refreshing issues and arguments that he raises, one becomes convinced that this is a book that is really worth the struggle because of the quality it offers. Giampietro offers us a wealth of evidence and argument for the position he takes. He uses new and interesting concepts derived from complex systems thinking, such as "learning holarchies", "cross-scale mosaic effect", "impredicative loop analysis", and "narratives to surf complex time", as methodologies to deal with knowledge as emergent from the interaction of non-equivalent agents/observers. In a period of rapid change, we have to construct a new way of constructing reality. Giampietro has put together a rich menu of way of going about which is well-grounded in sound empirical work. Mario Giampietro is a 100% Italian who imposes Italian warmth, liveliness and phrases on English in a refreshing way. The work is beautifully crafted and designed. It slowly takes the reader from simple to more complex issues, provides clear guides for the reader and suggestions for how he/she can engage with the complex material. A great number of clear and sometimes very entertaining figures make understanding the work easier. In all, Giampietro has spent considerable effort to make his complex work accessible, and in my view, he has succeeded in this to a point where lack of understanding becomes a problem of the reader, not of the book."

Niels G. Röling, Group Communication and Innovation Studies, Extra Ordinary Professor of Agricultural Knowledge Systems, Wageningen University, The Netherlands

"This book is like a carnival ride. It is fun, different and written with vigor and zest. The ideas herein are large and new, each daring line taken to its astonishing conclusion. This is the work that follows from and builds upon the seminal works of Robert Rosen. Rosen's bold conception as to the nature of complexity (it is what cannot be modeled). This work goes so much further in terms of theory together with application. There is a large literature here that is well cited in this scholarly volume. Very abstract as is the material that Mario Giampietro presents, the author uses examples that are breathtakingly ordinary. But it is not an easy read. The level of abstraction is very high indeed and the prose is elaborate as well as spirited. The large effort that this book takes to read is well paid back as the reader is introduced to many new strategies (not mere tactics) for thinking about and dealing with complexity and sustainability."

Tim Allen, Professor of Botany, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA

"This book is an innovative attempt to integrate both aspects of sustainability, and at the same time, challenge the reader to participate in creating a paradigm shift. …This book will be most useful for the advanced reader with experience in agroecology and food system issues…"

-Crop Science, Vol. 46, January-February 2006

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Table of Contents


The Crash of Reductionism Against the Complexity of Reality

The Epistemological Predicament Entailed by Complexity

Complex System Thinking: New Concepts and Narratives

The New Terms of Reference for Science for Governance: Post-Normal Science

Integrated Assessment of Agroecosystems and Multi-Criteria Analysis: Basic Definitions and Challenges


Forget About the Occam Razor: Looking for Multi-Scale Mosaic Effects (with Kozo Mayumi)

Impredicative Loop Analysis: Dealing with Chicken-Egg processes (with Kozo Mayumi)

Sustainability Requires the Ability of Generating Useful Narratives Capable of Surfing in Complex Time (with Kozo Mayumi)


Multi-Scale Integrated Analysis Agroecosystems: Bridging Disciplinary Gaps and Hierarchical Levels

Multi-Scale Integrated Analysis Agroecosystems: "Technological Changes" and Ecological Compatibility

Multi-Scale Integrated Analysis of Farming Systems: Benchmarking and Tailoring Representations Across Levels (with Tiziano Gomiero)

About the Series

Advances in Agroecology

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
NATURE / Ecology
NATURE / Environmental Conservation & Protection
TECHNOLOGY & ENGINEERING / Agriculture / Forestry