Towards a Thermodynamic Theory for Ecological Systems

1st Edition

Authors: S.E. Jorgensen Y.M. Svirezhev
Hardcover ISBN: 9780080441665
eBook ISBN: 9780080575209
Imprint: Pergamon
Published Date: 6th July 2004
Page Count: 380
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The book presents a consistent and complete ecosystem theory based on thermodynamic concepts. The first chapters are devoted to an interpretation of the first and second law of thermodynamics in ecosystem context. Then Prigogine's use of far from equilibrium thermodynamic is used on ecosystems to explain their reactions to perturbations. The introduction of the concept exergy makes it possible to give a more profound and comprehensive explanation of the ecosystem's reactions and growth-patterns. A tentative fourth law of thermodynamic is formulated and applied to facilitate these explanations. The trophic chain, the global energy and radiation balance and pattern and the reactions of ecological networks are all explained by the use of exergy. Finally, it is discussed how the presented theory can be applied more widely to explain ecological observations and rules, to assess ecosystem health and to develop ecological models.

Table of Contents


1. Thermodynamics as a method: A problem of statistical description. 1.1 Literary introduction. 1.2 Ontic openness. 1.3 The scope of this volume.

2. The laws of classical thermodynamics and their application to ecology. 2.1 Introduction. 2.2 Matter and energy in mechanics and thermodynamics. Energy conservation as the first law of thermodynamics. Fundamental Gibbs Equation. 2.3 Entropy and the second law of thermodynamics: Nernst's theorem. 2.4 Maximal work which the system can perform on its environment. Characteristic functions or thermodynamic potentials. 2.5 Chemical equilibrium, chemical affinity and standard energies of biochemical reactions. Function of dissipation. 2.6 Illustrations of thermodynamics in ecology. 2.7 Ecosystem as a biochemical reactor. 2.8 Summary of the important ecological issues.

3. Second and third law of thermodynamics in open systems. 3.1 Open systems and their energy balance. 3.2 The second law of thermodynamics interpreted for open systems. 3.3 Prigogine's theorem and the evolutionary criterion by Glansdorff-Prigogine. 3.4 The third law of thermodynamics applied on open systems. 3.5 Thermodynamics of living organisms. 3.6 Quantification of openness and allometric principles. 3.7 The temperature range needed for life processes. 3.8 Natural conditions for life.

4. Entropy, probability and information. 4.1 Entropy and probability. 4.2 Entropy and information. 4.3 The system as a text and its information entropy. 4.4 Diversity of biological communities. 4.5 Simple statistical models of biological communities. 4.6 Information analysis of the global vegetation pattern. 4.7 Diversity of the biosphere. 4.8 Information and evolutionary paradigm: Selection of information. 4.9 Genetic information contained in an organism: Hierarchy of information and its redundancy.


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About the Author

S.E. Jorgensen

Affiliations and Expertise

DFH, Miljokemi, Copenhagen, Denmark

Y.M. Svirezhev

Affiliations and Expertise

Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany


@qu: it was a pleasure to read it and appreciate new concepts and ideas. ...that publishing houses are giving enough space to bringing multidisciplinary areas to the attention of readers, excellent example being the book reviewed. @source: JOURNAL OF THERMAL ANALYSIS AND CALORIMETRY, 2005 @from: E. Tiezzi @qu: The post-scriptum is an excellent summary of the laws of the ecosystem theory. The book is highly recommendable to all scientists and young researchers interested in the new scientific paradigm of evolutionary thermodynamics. @source: Ecological Modelling, 2005