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The analysis of how ecosystem function is determined by the components of an ecosystem and how those components cycle, retain, or exchange energy and nutrients. Systems ecology typically involves the application of computer models that track the flow of energy and materials and predict the responses of systems to perturbations that range from fires to climate change to species extinctions. Systems ecology is closely related to mathematical ecology, with the major difference stemming from systems ecology's focus on energy and nutrient flow and its borrowing of ideas from engineering. Systems ecology is one of the few theoretical tools that can simultaneously examine a system from the level of individuals all the way up to the level of ecosystem dynamics. It is an especially valuable approach for investigating systems so large and complicated that experiments are impossible, and even observations of the entire system are impractical. In these overwhelming settings, the only approach is to break down the research into measurements of components and then assemble a system model that pieces together all components. An important contribution of ecosystem science is the recognition that there are critical ecosystem services such as cleansing of water, recycling of waste materials, production of food and fiber, and mitigation of pestilence and plagues. See Ecological communities, Ecological energetics, Ecology, Ecosystem, Global climate change, Theoretical ecology