Ecosystem Development

Ecosystem development in general is a question of the energy, matter, and information flows to and from the ecosystems. No transfer of energy is possible without matter and information and no matter can be transferred without energy and information. The higher the levels of information, the higher the utilization of matter and energy for further development of ecosystems away from the thermodynamic equilibrium (see also Chapters 2 and 4). These three factors are intimately intertwined in the fundamental nature of complex adaptive systems such as ecosystems in contrast to physical systems, that most often can be described completely by material and energy relations. Life is, therefore, both a material and a non-material (informational) phenomenon. The self-organization of life essentially proceeds by exchange of information.

E.P. Odum has described ecosystem development from the initial stage to the mature stage as a result of continuous use of the self-design ability (E.P. Odum, 1969, 1971a); see the significant differences between the two types of systems listed in Table 6.2 and notice that the major differences are on the level of information. Table 6.2 show what we often call E.P. Odum's successional attributes, but also a few other concepts such as for instance exergy and ecological networks have been introduced in the table.

Table 6.2 Differences between initial stage and mature stage are indicated


Early stages

Late or mature stage

(A) Energetic

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