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Fundamental Processes in EcologyAn earth systems approach$
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David M Wilkinson

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780198568469

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198568469.001.0001

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Energy flow

Energy flow

(p.17) 2. Energy flow
Fundamental Processes in Ecology

David M. Wilkinson

Oxford University Press

The second law of thermodynamics is central to understanding ecology, although it is ignored by most ecology text books. It follows from the second law that all organisms must draw free energy from their environment and return waste products back to their environment. Microorganisms often play a central role in decomposition of these waste products, but in spite of their importance are ignored by most food web studies. The possible relevance of developing ideas on maximum entropy production (MEP) to global ecology is also discussed.

Keywords:   second law of thermodynamics, food webs, maximum entropy production, MEP, free energy, entropy

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