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Earth System Dynamics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 2, issue 1
Earth Syst. Dynam., 2, 69–85, 2011
© Author(s) 2011. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Special issue: Thermodynamics of the earth system

Earth Syst. Dynam., 2, 69–85, 2011
© Author(s) 2011. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 17 Jun 2011

Research article | 17 Jun 2011

Differences and implications in biogeochemistry from maximizing entropy production locally versus globally

J. J. Vallino J. J. Vallino
  • Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, Massachusetts, USA

Abstract. In this manuscript we investigate the use of the maximum entropy production (MEP) principle for modeling biogeochemical processes that are catalyzed by living systems. Because of novelties introduced by the MEP approach, many questions need to be answered and techniques developed in the application of MEP to describe biological systems that are responsible for energy and mass transformations on a planetary scale. In previous work we introduce the importance of integrating entropy production over time to distinguish abiotic from biotic processes under transient conditions. Here we investigate the ramifications of modeling biological systems involving one or more spatial dimensions. When modeling systems over space, entropy production can be maximized either locally at each point in space asynchronously or globally over the system domain synchronously. We use a simple two-box model inspired by two-layer ocean models to illustrate the differences in local versus global entropy maximization. Synthesis and oxidation of biological structure is modeled using two autocatalytic reactions that account for changes in community kinetics using a single parameter each. Our results show that entropy production can be increased if maximized over the system domain rather than locally, which has important implications regarding how biological systems organize and supports the hypothesis for multiple levels of selection and cooperation in biology for the dissipation of free energy.

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