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National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis

Project Description

Energy is uniquely fundamental to biology. We can at least conceive of life forms made up of elements other than the familiar carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus. Life forms that do not use energy, however, are inconceivable. Ecologists have been studying the movement of energy in ecosystems for decades and two research traditions for doing so have developed. The older one, called ecological thermodynamics, looks at energy flow and storage within whole ecosystems and tries to explain and predict patterns in these flows. For example, scientists in this tradition might look at how the networks of energy flows in ecosystems change over time. The second tradition, metabolic ecology, starts with the metabolisms of individual organisms and the way metabolic rates vary with organism size and body temperature. They then make predictions about ecosystems based on the properties of the individuals making them up. These two lines of research are potentially complementary. However, their practitioners have ignored each other's work to a remarkable extent. The workshop will bring together scientists from energy-centered lines of research, help them come to understand each other's research, and ask what emerges when we try to bring metabolic ecology and ecological thermodynamics together and what questions could be addressed from these bottom-up and top-down perspectives. With any luck, this synthesis will help us understand ecosystems on a fundamental level. It can also help us predict how ecosystems will respond to a warming climate.
Working Group Participants

Principal Investigator(s)

Jane Shevtsov

Project Dates

Start: February 1, 2013

End: September 30, 2013



Kristina J. Anderson-Teixeira
Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
Gwendolyn C. Bachman
University of Nebraska, Lincoln
Joanna R. Bernhardt
University of British Columbia
James H. Brown
University of New Mexico
Anthony I. Dell
University of Göttingen
S. K. Morgan Ernest
Utah State University
Brian D. Fath
Towson University
James F. Gillooly
University of Florida
John M. Grady
University of New Mexico
Charles A. S. Hall
State University of New York (SUNY), College of Environmental Science and Forestry
Sven Jørgensen
University of Copenhagen
Mary I. O'Connor
University of British Columbia
Dorion Sagan
Chelsea Green Publishing
Van M. Savage
University of California, Los Angeles
Eric Schneider
John Schramski
University of Georgia
Jane Shevtsov
University of California, Los Angeles
Richard Sibly
University of Reading


  1. Journal Article / 2015

    Metabolic theory predicts whole-ecosystem properties

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