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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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Nutrient cycling as an emergent property

Nutrient cycling as an emergent property

(p.117) 9. Nutrient cycling as an emergent property
Fundamental Processes in Ecology

David M. Wilkinson

Oxford University Press

Arguments based on both in vitro and in silico models suggest that biogeochemical cycles will readily evolve on planets with life, along with many of the putative fundamental processes described in this book. Artificial life models illustrate the potential for these emergent cycling systems to have a positive Gaian effect. The well-known potential for exponential growth in unconstrained ecological systems suggests that these emergent systems will often regulate their environments around low nutrient states (biotic plunder), rather than at states which optimize productivity. In this context, it makes sense to define Gaia in relation to prolonged habitability of a planet, but not as a process which maximises biological productivity.

Keywords:   biogeochemical cycles, artificial life models, nutrients, biotic plunder, biological productivity, Gaia

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