The global ecosystem is made up of an ensemble of interacting local and regional ecosystems, each composed of biotic and abiotic subsystems. The evolution of these systems is constrained by physical and system laws and by the basic properties of their environment, including the constraints of exergy (energy that can be usefully transformed into work), material, and information flows. Sustainability (persistence) of a system in its environment therefore requires respecting these constraints. Conversely, the very fact of its persistence demonstrates that a system has successfully adapted to its operating conditions. Evolution has forced it to respect physical and system laws and the basic properties of its environment. To an observer, the system's behavior appears to be guided by a particular attractor state, or by attention to a number of orientors.

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