Journal article

Thermodynamic extremization principles and their relevance to ecology

Jian DL Yen, David M Paganin, James R Thomson, Ralph Mac Nally

AUSTRAL ECOLOGY | WILEY | Published : 2014


Theories based on simple principles have provided much insight into the common processes that underpin complex ecological systems. Although such theories (e.g. neutral theory, metabolic theories) often neglect specific ecological details, they compensate for this with their generality and broad applicability. We review several simple principles based on ‘thermodynamic extremization’ (the minimization or maximization of a thermodynamic quantity) and explore their application and relevance to ecology. Thermodynamic extremization principles predict that certain energetic quantities (e.g. entropy production) will tend towards maxima or minima within ecological systems, subject to local constrain..

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University of Melbourne Researchers


Funding Acknowledgements

JDLY acknowledges the support of the Monash University Sir James McNeill Foundation and the Victorian Life Sciences Computation Initiative. Katherine Harrisson provided insightful comments on draft manuscripts. Martin Burd and Tapio Simula participated in discussions during the development of these ideas.