The response of ecosystems to perturbations is considered from a thermodynamic perspective by acknowl-edging that, as for all macroscopic systems and processes, the dynamics and stability of ecosystems is sub-ject to definite thermodynamic law. For open ecosystems, exchanging energy, work, and mass with the en-vironment, the thermodynamic criteria come from non-equilibrium or irreversible thermodynamics. For ecosystems during periods in which the boundary conditions may be considered as being constant, it is shown that criteria from irreversible thermodynamic theory are sufficient to permit a quantitative prediction of ecosystem response to perturbation. This framework is shown to provide a new perspective on the popula-tion dynamics of real ecosystems.
Norberg, J., Swaney, D. P., Dushoff, J., Lin, J., Casagrandi, R. & Levin, S. A.. Phenotypic diversity and ecosystem functioning in changing environments: A theoretical framework. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. Vol. 98, 2001, pp. 11376-11381.
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