Biogeocoenosis and the Biosphere

The system that specifies the biogeocoenosis concept is rigorously introduced in works by Vernadsky, who was not only a naturalist, but also a physicist and chemist; he possessed knowledge in thermodynamics and ther-mostatics. In complete accordance with concepts of thermostatics, he determined an object and its elements in the following way: ''I will call a set of organisms participating in geochemical processes living matter. Organisms composing this set will be elements of living matter. With all this going on, we will pay attention not to all the properties of the living matter, but only to those which are related to its mass (weight), chemical composition, and energy. In such a comprehension, living matter is a new scientific notion''. Later, Vernadsky directly associates individuals with molecules of gases and suggests to consider living matter as a statistical ensemble of elements. Thus determining the concept of the biosphere, he states that laws of equilibrium (equilibrium process) in general mathematical form as revealed by J. Gibbs (1884-87) (who reduced them to relationships between independent variables, such as temperature, pressure, physical state, and chemical composition, which characterize the chemical and physical processes and participate in system processes) could be applied to a living system of bodies. According to this statement, one can distinguish ''ther-modynamic spheres as areas of equilibrium of thermodynamic variables that are determined by values of temperature and pressure; phase spheres that are characterized by the physical state (solid, liquid, etc.) of bodies in their composition, chemical spheres different in the chemical composition. Only one sphere distinguished by E. Suess - the biosphere - remained aside. Undoubtedly, all the reactions of the biosphere follow the laws of equilibrium, but they include a new characteristic, new independent variable which was not taken into account by J. Gibbs and is very important in other equilibrium forms (in the context of thermodynamics). A special reaction is the phenomenon of photosynthesis, with radiant light energy as an independent variable. Therefore, ''living organisms, introducing the radiant light energy to physicochemical processes of the earth crust, drastically differ from other independent variables of the biosphere. Like these variables, living organisms change the course of equilibrium, but unlike them, they represent specific autonomous formations as specific secondary systems ofdynamic equilibrium in the primary thermodynamic field of the biosphere. The autonomy of living organisms reflects the fact that the thermodynamic field, which inherently has quite other parameters than those observed in the biosphere. Therefore, organisms retain their own temperature (many organisms do so strongly) within the medium at another temperature and have their interior pressure. They are isolated in the biosphere, and its thermodynamic field is important for these organisms only due to the fact that it determines the area of existence ofthese autonomous systems, but not their interior field. From the chemical standpoint, their autonomy is expressed in the fact that chemical compounds produced in these systems cannot be synthesized beyond them under usual inanimate conditions ofthe biosphere. Being fallen into the conditions of this medium, they turned out to be unstable, are decomposed, transformed to other bodies, and in that way, they become disturbers of the equilibrium and represent a source of free energy in the biosphere''. Vernadsky discusses in detail all the properties of living matter known by that time, including basic mechanisms of its evolution. Generalizing his writings and using the modern terminology, one can define living matter as a stationary dissipative system of organism elements, which is far from thermodynamic equilibrium with free energy and exergy. The stationary state of this system is supported by the absorption of solar energy, which is responsible for the permanent conversion of the chemical element flux into a new organic form, realizing the cycle with a release of free energy to the environment, and transforming the latter as a result ofuseful work (exergy). The simplest example ofthis work is the intensification ofthe water cycle in the biosphere with appropriate contribution to climate control, that is, changes of equilibrium correspond to thermodynamic variables that change climate. So, when combining the concept of biogeocoenosis with the concept of 'living matter', we obtain rather strict thermodynamic bases for the characterization of the biogeocoenotic process, as well as all the necessary fundamentals for consideration oftheir autochthonous (endogenous) dynamics and self-development of biogeocoenoses and biogeocoenotic cover as a nonequili-brium, stationary thermodynamic dissipative system. However, all this is insufficient to consider biogeocoenosis as an elementary cell ofthe biosphere, within which nonliving matter is converted to living one and, conversely, incomplete transformation ofthe former to mobile chemical compounds occurs with a release offree energy and changes in the environment (thermodynamic variables of the atmosphere, hydrosphere, and lithosphere).

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