Beyond planetary-scale feedback self-regulation: Gaia as an autopoietic system

Sergio Rubin, Tomas Veloz, Pedro Maldonado

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


The Gaia hypothesis states that the Earth is an instance of life. However, appraisals of it tend to focus on the claim that life is a feedback self-regulator that controls Earth's chemistry and climate dynamics, yet, self-regulation by feedbacks is not a definitive characteristic of living systems. Here, we consider the characterization of biological systems as autopoietic systems (causally organized to self-produce through metabolic efficient closure) and then ask whether the Gaia hypothesis is a tractable question from this standpoint. A proof-of-concept based on Chemical Organization Theory (COT) and the Zero Deficiency Theorem (ZDT) applied on a simple but representative Earth's molecular reaction network supports the thesis of Gaia as an autopoietic system. We identify the formation of self-producing organizations within the reaction network, corresponding to recognizable scenarios of Earth's history. These results provide further opportunities to discuss how the instantiation of autopoiesis at the planetary scale could manifests central features of biological phenomenon, such as autonomy and anticipation, and what this implies for the further development of the Gaia theory, Earth's climate modelling and geoengineering.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104314
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


  • Autonomy and anticipation
  • Autopoiesis
  • Chemical organization theory
  • Earth's climate system
  • Gaia hypothesis
  • Living systems
  • Self-production by metabolic closure
  • Zero deficiency theorem

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Modelling and Simulation
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Applied Mathematics


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