Biota Performs the Work

We have an argument carrying the concept of self-organization of the biosphere: the very existence of the living biota is in necessary disequilibrium with the nonliving part of the biosphere. The main consequence of this disequilibrium is that the biota is able to perform some useful work, and a measure of this work is 'exergy'. By performing work, the biota produces additional entropy; namely, this entropy 'closes' its balance. This in turn allows us to say that the biota is in dynamic equilibrium at least in the course of last millenaries. What is this work? This is mainly the chemical work of the biogeochemical cycles, the work forcing to move the matter flows, that is, forcing the 'wheels' of the 'biosphere machine' to be turned, and then to move evolution. In particular, all the work to produce and maintain the gigantic overproduction of offspring (namely this is one of the main ideas of Darwin, while the concept of natural selection dates back to antiquity) is the work of biota.

So, this work (more correctly the ability to perform the work, i.e., 'exergy') is equal to

Exergy is also defined as Ex = ft hD0M ? NPP, where hDOM = 17.4 kJ g- is the specific enthalpy of DOM, NPP = 1.4 x 1017g d.w. is the annual NPP, and the factor ft is some specific genetic characteristic of a living organism defined by a number of nonrepetitive genes in its genome. For plants, this value lies in the range 29-87. In sa=3.5 x io22 Atmosphere + f 1

apor i


O2 CO2 Water vapor 113 11g 597 ' '

sa=3.5 x io22 Atmosphere + f 1

apor i

O2 CO2 Water vapor 113 11g 597 ' '


Liquid h2o

sb = 1.1 x 1o20 Biota




DOM - Nut

9.47 ~o

Figure 2 Exchange entropic flows for the biota (all the flows are shown in 1018 JK 1 yr 1). DOM is the entropy flow determined by falling off the dead organic matter, Nut is the entropy flow of nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, etc.).

our case ft « 42, which is close to the mean of this interval, ft = 58.

It is not a secret that all these estimations for the total biomass of vegetation, its annual production, the volume of water transpired by plants, etc., are rather conditional and strongly varying. Nevertheless, the corresponding values of ft in most cases get into the interval from 29 to 87.

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