Biodiversity and Thermodynamics

Biodiversity and Thermodynamics

A further step in the assessment of the importance of biodiversity on our planet can and must be taken through the study of the ecosystem and its energy model. It is opportune to set off along an ideological path that let’s us understand how each individual living being is merely a complex thermodynamic machine that transforms energy according to the principles of the physics of energy.

If this consideration is made for an individual living being, it is opportune to begin to make an energy balance of that organism. In this energy balance we must consider the whole quantity of work which can be transformed into heat and the output of this individual thermodynamic machine. The output of every individual organism, however complex and specialized it is in its function, can never be equal to one, because of the second principle of the thermodynamics. We can compare the vital cycle of an organism to a hypothetical cycle of Carnot in order to theorize the characteristic that every thermodynamic machine has its own output. This leads to the consideration that the energy at the disposal of living organisms, as in a machine, can only partly be used while another part is returned to the environment in the form of waste products. The ecosystem, through its biodiversity, can be compared to a complex of thermodynamic machines, all working with their own output and all fed from various energy sources. The interesting aspect of the ecosystem is that in this way every individual living organism uses partly or wholly the waste products of other living organisms.
By operating in his way, the individual organisms of an ecosystem behave like a more complex machine whose final output is greater than the output of the individual organisms. The study of thermodynamics, through the infinitesimal method, shows how this aspect leads to the observation that, even if unitary output is not possible, because the principles of thermodynamics do not allow for it, in an ecosystem with potential biodiversity, the energy output of the system is the maximum attainable in the universe. Therefore, an ecosystem that loses part of its biodiversity has the tendency to settle at a level of reduced output. An ecosystem is never a machine that can be reproduced in time or space. Biodiversity is in fact exclusively linked to eco-diversity, like a liquid is to its container. In this way, the study, the evaluation and the protection of the bio-systems becomes a fundamental factor in the future policies of social and economic development. The ability to assess every single bio-system in terms of energy not only opens interesting scenarios in the field of protecting biodiversity, but also in the field of renewable energies such as: biomasses, solar, geothermic, hydroelectric, biogas, etc.. In fact, this observation contains an important truth in its Scientific, Ethical and Social aspects. Scientific aspects: these are more immediately comprehensible; the loss of the biodiversity of a system involves a deterioration of the ability to produce energy in that territorial site, creating a greater presence of energy waste products, that is, greater pollution in the surrounding environment. The conservation of Biodiversity, therefore, becomes a fundamental objective of research and of scientific and technical applications able to protect the original ecosystems. Ethical aspects: the responsibility for the protection of the ecosystem does not, therefore, regard some State or Corporate body, but is a personal factor of every individual human being and their behaviour and habits (which have to be redrawn). For better or for worse, they become protagonists in maintaining balance in the environment. Social aspects: these are closely linked to the previous considerations but also influence the way we consider the State and public and private law. They are above all linked to the need to greatly modify policies which regard the use of territory, which is where the most complex thermodynamic machine, the ecosystem itself, functions.

Guido Bissanti