eco•tone from ecology (eco; Greek οἶκος, oikos “house/dwelling”) + -tone from the Greek τόνος tonos, “tension.”
Two houses in tension: an ecotone is a border zone, where ecological systems meet and mingle, sometimes forming a new and different community of species.
Ecotone is the news and outreach forum for the Ecological Society of America, featuring fresh research from our scholarly journals and around the ecological community. Visit us for news about the society and profiles of our members. Ecotone also offers analysis of government policy developments in the scientific arena.
Ecotones occur at edges and physical boundaries, where fresh water meets salt water and water meets land, where tides roll up and down coasts, where the fir trees of taiga forests give way to the lichen and grass of tundra and woodlands become pastures.
The term refers to the transition from one ecosystem to another, as well the stress inherent in a population at the limit of its tolerance for specific environmental conditions.
We welcome guest submissions of timely relevant news of importance to the broad ecological community. Liza Lester, ESA’s communications officer, edits Ecotone.
“Along a wavy east and west line passing through Rockford lies the “zone of tension” between societies I, II, and III on the one hand, and IV and V on the other…It may be that the climate, somewhat colder as we pass northward, has acted as a retarding factor, assisted by the fact that a good portion of these northern townships have a light surface soil, which seems unsuited for the hard wood societies in the absence of humus.”
Livingston, Burton Edward. The Distribution of the Upland Plant Societies of Kent County, Michigan. Botanical Gazette, Vol. 35, No. 1 (Jan., 1903), pp. 36-55. [archived pdf scan in JSTOR]
“The line that connects the points of accumulated or abrupt change in the symmetry is a stress line or ecotone. Ecotones are well-marked between formations, particularly where the medium changes; they are less distinct within formations. It is obvious that an ecotone separates two different series of zones in the one case, and merely two distinct zones in the other.”
Clements, F.E. 1905. Research methods in ecology. University Publishing Company, Lincoln, NE. [full text in open library]