Take a walk on a pleasant May day in a temperate deciduous forest, visit the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania when the wildebeests are emigrating North, paddle a canoe through a North-American wetland, or hike the alpine tundra of Austria, whatever your preference, you will be impressed by the diversity and beauty that nature offers to you. We know that the diversity of nature is enormous. We can find on the order of 107 different species on earth and they can be combined in ecological networks in an almost infinite number of ways. We also have a fairly good image of the evolution from 3.8 billion years ago when the first primitive cells emerged to Homo sapiens with advanced technology of today: airplanes, computers, Internet, and so on. We could, therefore, turn the question around and ask: which properties do ecosystems have that explain the diversity, adaptability, and beauty of nature and evolution. How can we explain that the interactions between matter, energy, and information lead to the abiotic and biotic web of life on earth, as we can observe? We definitely do not need an intelligent designer to come up with a clear and fully acceptable explanation. This book presents an overview of which systems-based, thermo-dynamic properties are known to underpin this natural growth and development.
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