From Ecosystem Ecology edited by Sven Erik Jørgensen

After the initial capture of energy across a boundary, ecosystem growth and development is possible by

  1. an increae of the physical structure(biomass),
  2. an increase of the network (more cycling)
  3. an increase in the information embodied in the system.

What is meant by increase in information embodied in the system?

Does it mean increase in diversity of the genes (genetic information)?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Doesn't the book explain it? We could speculate on this, but I think it will be difficult if not impossible to give a final answer. $\endgroup$
    – RHA
    Commented Jan 9, 2017 at 19:25
  • $\begingroup$ @RHA No, it doesn't. $\endgroup$
    – Tyto alba
    Commented Jan 9, 2017 at 19:55

1 Answer 1


Table 1 on the next page (p. 36) lists a number of properties for each of the three "growth forms".

For information, properties include:

  • Life history types
  • Diversity (taxonomic & ecological)
  • Body size
  • Stability

I have to admit that some of these properties doesn't really make sense to me under these headings (at least from the common use of these terms). However, I suspect that they are used in a very specific sense that might make sense if you read the entire book. And systems ecology isn't really my thing.

Note also that exergy (which is used in relation to these three growth forms in the book) is a term borrowed from thermodynamics (ie physics), and it describes potential/available work. Exergy is also negatively related to entropy, so when exergy decreases, entropy increases. Since higher entropy is related to disorder, the opposite goes for exergy, so high exergy means a higher amount of order (within the system), which can be translated into "structural information". I suspect that this is the form of information that the book is referring to, as one of the "growth forms".

  • $\begingroup$ I'd also add that "information" can be closely related to "complexity" in many contexts outside of contexts where "information" has its usual colloquial meaning (e.g., application of Shannon information/Shannon entropy outside of communication systems). I suspect that's what this author is referring to, the complexity of the ecosystem, such as the number of hierarchical levels that the energy passes through. $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Jan 10, 2017 at 0:15
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @BryanKrause I agree, and the "structural information" that I mention is clearly a way of expressing system/structual complexity. To me, one slightly confusing aspect of how information is used here (in the book/question) is that high entropy (so low exergy) is equivalent to high information (see Shannon entropy), which is kind of the opposite of the complex, ordered system that the question describes. Random or chaotic systems have high information but are disordered. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 10, 2017 at 9:16

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