Self-organization is one of the most important advances in modern nonlinear and nonequilibrium thermodynamic study. However, methods to measure the degree of self-organization of ecosystem are problematic.
Illumed by the “maximum energy dissipation” theory, Dr. LIN Hua and her teachers of Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG) proposed a new method to measure ecosystem self-organization. The researchers developed thermodynamic indicators of energy capture and dissipation to quantify the degree of self-organization. They took the whole system as an energy dissipater, devised indicators of energy capture and dissipation so that self-organization defined via maximum energy dissipation can be quantified easily.
The study was carried out at a permanent plot (21°57′ N, 101°12′ E, 750 m asl) dedicated to long-term ecological research, managed by Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG). The plot is also part of the ChinaFLUX long-term ecological monitoring project. From 2003, the ChinaFLUX research project was launched there. Long-term ecological monitoring data have been collected, allowing for the calculation of several years’ self-organization possible. Long-term data (2004-2006) were used to validate the method. Self-organization showed different patterns in cool dry, hot dry and rainy season. It integratedly reflected the ecosystem response to environmental change.
Their study provided a model to simulate long-term self-organization dynamics with data commonly obtained in long-term ecological research networks. Besides, the study tested the sensitivity and applicability of those indicators to seasonal variation of tropical seasonal forest.
The research results indicated that using thermal response number (TRN) and energy capture ability (Rn/DR) is a suitable method for the rapid assessment of ecosystem self-organization, and the method is possible for remote monitoring. Traditional research of ecosystem thermodynamics focused on the theory discussion, but the study shed light on its practical application.
The research entitled “Self-organization of tropical seasonal rain forest in southwest China” has been published in Ecological Modelling, 222(15): 2812-2816, doi:10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2010.07.006