Emergence or self-organization? Look to the soil population

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Addiscott, T. M. 2011. Emergence or self-organization? Look to the soil population. Communicative and Integrative Biology. 4 (4), pp. 469-470. https://doi.org/10.4161/cib.15547

AuthorsAddiscott, T. M.

Emergence is not well defined, but all emergent systems have the following characteristics. The whole is more than the sum of the parts, they show bottom-up rather top-down organization and, if biological, they involve chemical signalling. Self-organization can be understood in terms of the second and third stages of thermodynamics enabling these stages used as analogues of ecosystem functioning. The second stage system was suggested earlier to provide a useful analogue of the behaviour of natural and agricultural ecosystems subjected to perturbations, but for this it needs the capacity for self-organization. Considering the hierarchy of the ecosystem suggests that this self-organization is provided by the third stage, whose entropy maximization acts as an analogue of that of the soil population when it releases small molecules from much larger molecules in dead plant matter. This it does as vigorously as conditions allow. Through this activity, the soil population confers self-organization at both the ecosystem and the global level. The soil population has been seen as both emergent and self-organizing, supporting the suggestion that the two concepts are are so closely linked as to be virtually interchangeable. If this idea is correct one of the characteristics of a biological emergent system seems to be the ability to confer self-organization on an ecosystem or other entity which may be larger than itself. The beehive and the termite colony are emergent systems which share this ability.

Year of Publication2011
JournalCommunicative and Integrative Biology
Journal citation4 (4), pp. 469-470
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.4161/cib.15547
Open accessPublished as bronze (free) open access
FunderBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Funder project or codeSEF
Linking function to process: developing methods to explore the link between microbial function and biogeochemical cycling in soils
Maintaining soil resilience and function for sustainable land management
Publisher's version
Copyright license
Publisher copyright
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online01 Jul 2011
Publication process dates
Accepted21 Mar 2011

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