Assessing Self-Organization of Plant communities—A Thermodynamic Approach

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Thermodynamics is a powerful tool for the study of system development and has the potential to be applied to studies of ecological complexity. Here, we develop a set of thermodynamic indicators including energy capture and energy dissipation to quantify plant community self-organization. The study ecosystems included a tropical seasonal rainforest, an artificial tropical rainforest, a rubber plantation, and two Chromolaena odorata (L.) R.M. King & H. Robinson communities aged 13 years and 1 year. The communities represent a complexity transect from primary vegetation, to transitional community, economic plantation, and fallows and are typical for Xishuangbanna, southwestern China. The indicators of ecosystem self-organization are sensitive to plant community type and seasonality, and demonstrate that the tropical seasonal rainforest is highly self-organized and plays an important role in local environmental stability via the land surface thermal regulation. The rubber plantation is at a very low level of self-organization as quantified by the thermodynamic indicators, especially during the dry season. The expansion of the area of rubber plantation and shrinkage of tropical seasonal rainforest would likely induce local surface warming and a larger daily temperature range.




Lin, Hua, Min Cao, Paul C. Stoy, and Yiping Zhang. “Assessing Self-Organization of Plant communities—A Thermodynamic Approach.” Ecological Modelling 220, no. 6 (March 2009): 784–790. doi:10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2009.01.003.


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