Revised 24 May 2019

The Maximum-Power Principle first formulated by Lokta (1925) explains why some ecological systems survive others. This principle can be stated as follows:

The systems that survive in competition are those that develop more power inflow and use it best to meet the needs of survival.

According to Odum (1976, pp40-1), ecological systems which use the Maximum-Power Principle develop storages of high-quality energy which are used to increase inflows, recycle materials as needed, organise control mechanisms that keep the system adapted and stable, and set up exchanges with other systems to supply special energy needs. Figure 4 demonstrates these ideas. 

Figure 5: Energy feedback loop (Odum & Odum, 1976, p41)

The more energy that is pumped into the storage C, the more is fed back to process A. This energy-pumping feedback stimulates inflow from the source of energy, E. The steeply rising graph of growth produced by this feedback acceleration with a large source of energy is sometimes called 'Malthusian growth”. As long as the source is larger enough to maintain a constant force in spite of a greater drain of energy, the pumping will increase faster and faster until natural limits are reached.