Revised 24 May 2019

The study of energy flows within ecosystems is based on the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics. The different types of energy flow can be categorised as follows (Adams, 1975, p. 115-8):

  • Flow as transport and storage of matter: The flow of materials moving through an ecosystem, including storage. 
  • Flow as transduction and radiation of energy: Solar and thermal radiation, evaporation, convection and conduction. 
  • Flow as conversion from one state to another: Examples include burning of fuel, photosynthesis, and water becoming steam.
  • Flow as an energy cost of triggering energy release: For example, the energy of one system (human action) applied to the environment of a second system which releases greater energy (energy production).