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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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Ecological hypercycles—covering a planet with life

Ecological hypercycles—covering a planet with life

(p.57) 5. Ecological hypercycles—covering a planet with life
Fundamental Processes in Ecology

David M. Wilkinson

Oxford University Press

Ecological hypercycles are auto-catalytic processes by which different organisms (or guilds) improve each others environments. For example, autotrophs producing material of use to decomposers and the decomposers releasing nutrients which are reused by the autotrophs. Such an auto-catalytic process clearly has a positive Gaian effect, and is one of several reasons for expecting life to cover quickly most of a planet's surface once it has evolved. Environmental stochasticity makes it unlikely that ecologies restricted to a small area of a planet will survive for a geological period of time. However, once widespread, life may have a long drawn out end on a dying planet, with some cells surviving for at least millions of years after the biogeochemical cycles returned to being mere geochemical cycles.

Keywords:   hypercycles, auto-catalytic, autotrophs, decomposers, environmental stochasticity, biogeochemical cycles

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