The Past, Present, and Future of Ecological Energetics

  • Richard G. Wiegert
Conference paper
Part of the Ecological Studies book series (ECOLSTUD, volume 67)


In this chapter I provide a brief review of the historical development of ecological energetics, some cogent discussion of theoretical constructs and some suggestions for future work. To accomplish this, I have organized this chapter into three sections. First, I discuss historical developments, focusing on the earliest beginnings of ecological energetics in the 18th and 19th centuries, the pioneering work of Lindeman, and the expansion of energetics studies after World War II. The latter quickly branched into somewhat separate areas emphasizing, respectively, population, ecosystem, and physiological energetics. The exponential rise in the number of studies of ecological energetics in the 1960s culminated in the development of energy flow models in the 1970s and 1980s. This section concludes with a brief discussion of the most important technological improvements in methods of measuring energy parameters. Second, I discuss three important areas of past theoretical activity: ecological efficiencies, the thermodynamic basis for the ecological energy budget, and the principle of maximum power. The third section, current and future directions, comprises an introductory explanation of energy flow in inanimate versus animate systems plus discussion and evaluation of (1) resource foraging theory, (2) energy flow versus cycling, (4) trophic levels, (5) energy storage, and (6) energy flow models, particularly as the latter are used in the development of theory and as they intersect with the problem of the control of energy flow in ecosystems.


Trophic Level Energy Flow Standing Stock Trophic Transfer Crassulacean Acid Metabolism Plant 
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© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1988

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  • Richard G. Wiegert

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