feedback loop

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(feedback mechanism)

A control device in a system. Homoeostatic systems have numerous negative-feedback mechanisms which tend to counterbalance positive changes and so maintain stability. For example, denitrifying bacteria counteract the effects of nitrogen-fixing bacteria. Positive feedback reinforces change and in natural systems may result in radical environmental alteration. For example, an exceptionally cool summer in high mid-latitudes of the northern hemisphere may impede the melting of snow, leading to unusually high albedo, which reduces absorption of solar energy, leading to further cooling, etc.

Subjects: Plant Sciences and Forestry — Ecology and Conservation.

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