Inderscience Publishers

Ecologically-based approaches to evaluate the sustainability of industrial systems

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Industrial ecology, promoted as a discipline of 'sustainability science', applies ecological concepts to industrial systems to improve their sustainability. Concepts such as diversity, food webs and nutrient recycling have been investigated for industrial systems. Complex systems theory may also prove to be an appropriate framework for industrial systems research. This framework can identify the processes and feedbacks governing industrial systems, and how these systems respond to disturbances. A review of the industrial ecology literature suggests that firms and industries regularly display behaviours that are similar to those described in ecosystems under the complex systems theory rubric. In particular, the models and tools generated from the study of niche construction, self-organisation and dynamic regimes hold promise. These systems-level concepts have been developed under the assumption that anthropogenic disturbances are a dominant influence for many ecosystems, and may therefore be more relevant to the study of industrial and other strongly anthropogenic systems.

Keywords: eco-industrial parks, ecological theory, ecosystems, forestry, industrial ecology, sustainability, sustainable development, industrial systems

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