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MATHEMATICAL SYSTEM THEORY AND THE ECOSYSTEM CONCEPT, AN APPROACH TO MODELLING WATERSHED BEHAVIORThis study explores the possible role of mathematical system theory in integrating existing ecological knowledge within the existing concepts of the structure of the biosphere. The objective of this integration is a theory of ecosystems which must include interactions. The basic unit of the biosphere is the biogeocoenose; similar to the ecosystem, but homogeneous with respect to topographic, microclimatic, vegetation, animal, pedalogical, hydrological and geochemical conditions. The role of the biogeocoenose in a theory of ecosystems based on system theory is discussed. The biogeocoenose may serve as the building block for modeling watersheds as ecosystems. The fundamentals of system theory are reviewed. As an example, an analysis and synthesis of the arid zone water balance follows. The water balance is resolved into twenty components which represent the water balance of (1) the canopy, (2) the mulch, (3) the soil surface, (4) the soil, and (5) the plant, including interactions. The twenty components were modeled as separate systems which were later coupled into one overall, complex, well defined ecosystem water balance system. The example illustrates the role of system theory in integrating ecological knowledge. Further discussion indicates the need for explicitly including plant behavior in the water balance model.