Here is a brilliant introduction to insect and plant ecology focusing on one of nature’s most adaptive creatures, the bumblebee. Survival for the bumblebee depends on its ability to regulate body temperature through a complex energy exchange, and it is this management of energy resources around which Bernd Heinrich enters his discussion of physiology, behavior, and ecological interaction. Along the way, he makes some amusing parallels with the theories of Adam Smith—which, Heinrich observes, work rather well for the bees, however inadequate they may be for human needs.
Bumblebee Economics uniquely offers both the professional and amateur scientist a coherent biological model that goes beyond any particular species or level of biological organization. Rich in specific detail and including an extensive appendix on the rearing of bumblebees, as well as a full-color guide to field identification, this book organizes practical knowledge according to a new criterion.
In a new preface, Heinrich ranges from Maine to Alaska and north to the Arctic as he summarizes findings from continuing investigations over the past twenty-five years—by himself and others—into the wondrous “energy economy” of bumblebees.
Using an energy systems language that combines energetics, kinetics, information, cybernetics, and simulation, Ecological and General Systems compares models of many fields of science, helping to derive general systems principles.
First published as Systems Ecology in 1983, Ecological and General Systems proposes principles of self-organization and the designs that prevail by maximizing power and efficiency. Comparisons to fifty other systems languages are provided. Innovative presentations are given on earth homeostasis (Gaia); the inadequacy of presenting equations without network relationships and energy constraints; the alternative interpretation of high entropy complexity as adaptive structure; basic equations of ecological economics; and the energy basis of scientific hierarchy.
Part I introduces energetics, hierarchy, and systems modeling. Part II features design elements: intersections, autocatalytic modules, loops, series, parallel elements, and webs. Part III includes embodied energy, spectra of energy quality, temperature, complexity, spatial distribution, and diversity. Part IV discusses production, consumption, ecosystems, succession, economic systems, anthropological models, urban and regional models, global biogeochemistry, and the universe.
Along with reproduction, balancing energy expenditure with the limits of resource acquisition is essential for both a species and a population to survive. But energy is a limited resource, as we know well, so birds and mammals—the most energy-intensive fauna on the planet—must reduce energy expenditures to maintain this balance, some taking small steps, and others extreme measures.
Here Brian K. McNab draws on his over sixty years in the field to provide a comprehensive account of the energetics of birds and mammals, one fully integrated with their natural history. McNab begins with an overview of thermal rates—much of our own energy is spent maintaining our 98.6?F temperature—and explains how the basal rate of metabolism drives energy use, especially in extreme environments. He then explores those variables that interact with the basal rate of metabolism, like body size and scale and environments, highlighting their influence on behavior, distribution, and even reproductive output. Successive chapters take up energy and population dynamics and evolution. A critical central theme that runs through the book is how the energetic needs of birds and mammals come up against rapid environmental change and how this is hastening the pace of extinction.
Scientists, theologians, and philosophers have all sought to answer the questions of why we are here and where we are going. Finding this natural basis of life has proved elusive, but in the eloquent and creative Into the Cool, Eric D. Schneider and Dorion Sagan look for answers in a surprising place: the second law of thermodynamics. This second law refers to energy's inevitable tendency to change from being concentrated in one place to becoming spread out over time. In this scientific tour de force, Schneider and Sagan show how the second law is behind evolution, ecology,economics, and even life's origin.
Working from the precept that "nature abhors a gradient," Into the Cool details how complex systems emerge, enlarge, and reproduce in a world tending toward disorder. From hurricanes here to life on other worlds, from human evolution to the systems humans have created, this pervasive pull toward equilibrium governs life at its molecular base and at its peak in the elaborate structures of living complex systems. Schneider and Sagan organize their argument in a highly accessible manner, moving from descriptions of the basic physics behind energy flow to the organization of complex systems to the role of energy in life to the final section, which applies their concept of energy flow to politics, economics, and even human health.
A book that needs to be grappled with by all those who wonder at the organizing principles of existence, Into the Cool will appeal to both humanists and scientists. If Charles Darwin shook the world by showing the common ancestry of all life, so Into the Cool has a similar power to disturb—and delight—by showing the common roots in energy flow of all complex, organized, and naturally functioning systems.
“Whether one is considering the difference between heat and cold or between inflated prices and market values, Schneider and Sagan argue, we can apply insights from thermodynamics and entropy to understand how systems tend toward equilibrium. The result is an impressive work that ranges across disciplinary boundaries and draws from disparate literatures without blinking.”—Publishers Weekly