Achievements and Challenges in Forest Energetics

  • William A. Reiners
Conference paper
Part of the Ecological Studies book series (ECOLSTUD, volume 67)


This historical review begins at a benchmark year and occasion—the refresher course on energy flow and ecological systems organized by Frederick Turner for the AIBS meetings in College Station, Texas in 1967 and published in the American Zoologist in 1968. The leading presentation was by Eugene P. Odum and was titled “Energy flow in ecosystems: a historical review.” In that paper, Odum succinctly sketched the development of our thinking on ecological energetics. Beginning with Forbes’s classical ideas on “The lake as a microcosm,” Odum proceeded with the contributions of Thienemann and Elton on the concepts of niche and pyramids. He showed the beginnings of thermodynamics in the writings of Lotka and the first conceptions of energy budgets and primary production among limnologists such as Birge and Juday in the 1930s. Odum noted that it was limnologists who were the first to employ these ideas, perhaps because of the convenience of aquatic systems for measurement. The trophicdynamic concepts of Lindeman, with contributions by Hutchinson, Clarke, and MacFadyen, were keystone writings of the 1940s. Odum also introduced the energy flow diagram and measures of community metabolism which he and his brother, H. T. Odum, conceived of in the 1950s. He cited a number of studies on secondary production and energy flow in populations, and the use of laboratory studies. Finally, he pointed to the growing attention paid to energetics in the areas of succession and more formalized systems ecology.


Fine Root Forest Floor Leaf Area Index Gross Primary Production Energy Flow 
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© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1988

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  • William A. Reiners

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