Avelar, D., Garret, P., Ulm, F., Hobson, P. & Penha-Lopes, G. (2020) Ecological complexity effects on thermal signature of different Madeira island ecosystemsEcological Complexity, 43, 100837. DOI:10.1016/j.ecocom.2020.100837 (IF2019 1,571; Q3 Ecology)
From a systemic perspective, evolution and natural succession promote the creation of efficient biological structures and processes that capture and dissipate the solar energy, maximizing the entropy production. This ecological complexification results in better ecosystem thermodynamic performance indicated by lower temperature.
In a brief period of evolutionary time human-induced disturbance has altered profoundly the structure and functioning of the Earth System, i.e. ecological simplification.
The objective is to understand whether remote sensing data can be considered appropriate proxy indicators to test if more mature and complex ecosystems have higher entropy production rates which lead to lower and attenuated ecosystem temperatures.
Simple remote sensing measurements of Madeira Island for Thermal Infrared Radiation and Normalized Difference Vegetation Index were used to analyse the surface temperature and biomass cover of Madeira ecosystems spectrum of different states of human-induced disturbance.
The findings revealed it was possible to distinguish between ecosystem types using thermodynamic indicators, where older ecosystems with more complex structures exhibit more attenuated lower average temperatures.
It was also found that habitat heterogeneity can represent either artificial (human) or natural disturbance with opposite consequences in the ecosystem thermal signature, i.e. lower temperature when natural disturbance and higher if anthropogenic disturbance.
Simple thermal remote sensing data can be used as systemic indicator of ecosystem health by reflecting it levels of eco-exergy, i.e the available work energy in the ecosystem.