Sir Arthur George Tansley

(1871—1955) plant ecologist

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A British ecologist and conservationist who emphasized ecology as an ‘approach to botany through the direct study of plants in their natural conditions’ (Practical Plant Ecology, 1923). He also pointed out the fact that since plants exist in communities the ecologist should be concerned with the structure of communities, or ‘plant sociology’. This view became central to most British and American ecological theory. Tansley coined the term ecosystem in 1935 (in ‘The use and abuse of vegetational terms and concepts’, Ecology 16: 284–307), although it may have been used earlier by his colleague Roy Clapham. Tansley's book Types of British Vegetation (1911) paved the way for vegetation description in Britain. Tansley was a lecturer at the University of Cambridge (1907–23), where much of his ecological work was done, and professor of botany at the University of Oxford (1927–37). He was instrumental in founding the British Ecological Society (1913) and was its first president. His many books include The British Islands and their Vegetation (1939) and Britain's Green Mantle (1949). See also Clements, Frederic Edward.

Subjects: Plant Sciences and Forestry — Ecology and Conservation.

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