CSDMS 2020: Linking Ecosphere and Geosphere

Process Ecology: A Step beyond Physics

Robert Ulanowicz

Biology Dept., Univ. Florida Univ. MD Ctr for Env. Science, United States

Ecology is largely considered to have its foundations in physics, and indeed physics frames many of the constraints on ecosystem dynamics. Physics has its limitations, however, especially when dealing with strongly heterogeneous systems and with the absence of entities. Networks are convenient tools for dealing with heterogeneity and have a long history in ecology, however most research in networks is dedicated to uncovering the mechanisms that give rise to network types. Causality in complex heterogeneous systems deals more with configurations of processes than it does with objects moving according to laws. Phenomenological observation of ecosystems networks reveals regularities that the laws of physics are unequipped to determine. The ecosystem is not a machine, but rather a transaction between contingent organization and entropic disorder.

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Of interest for:
  • Ecosystem Dynamics Focus Research Group