Specific Exergy as Ecosystem Health Indicator

It is generally required that a proper holistic ecosystem health indicator should cover the following system properties (attributes): homeostasis, absence of diseases, diversity or complexity, stability, resistance and buffer capacity, vigor or scope for growth, and a suitable balance between system components. Specific exergy meets this requirement as follows:

1. Homeostasis is required to ensure survival, and specific eco-exergy measures directly the information needed to establish homeostasis.

2. Absence of disease is needed to ensure growth. The two growth forms (network complexity and information) implies increase of specific exergy.

3. Diversity or complexity: high exergy must imply that all or almost all ecological niches are occupied and that means high diversity and complexity and thereby information. That all ecological niches are occupied implies furthermore that a number of higher organisms with a high level of information are present, that is, the specific eco-exergy is high.

4. Stability and resilience is partially covered by buffer capacity, which can be shown to be proportional to exergy by a statistical analysis of model results. The higher the buffer capacity the more biomass the ecosystem has, but increasing complexity of the network and increasing information may also contribute to the buffer capacity. Therefore, there is, under certain circumstances, a higher specific exergy the higher the buffer capacity is, but this may not always be the case.

5. Vigor or scope for growth - again two of the three growth forms involve increased specific eco-exergy, and vigor and scope for growth are therefore related to specific eco-exergy.

6. Balance between system components means that there are both higher and lower organisms and many different organisms present (which is not covered by eco-exergy, but covered only by specific exergy).

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