Understanding successional trends in energy and matter exchange across the ecosystem-atmosphere boundary layer is an essential focus in ecological research; however, a general theory describing the observed pattern remains elusive. This paper examines whether the principle of maximum entropy production could provide the solution. A general framework is developed for calculating entropy production using data from terrestrial eddy covariance and micrometeorological studies. We apply this framework to data from eight tropical forest and pasture flux sites in the Amazon Basin and show that forest sites had consistently higher entropy production rates than pasture sites (0.461 versus 0.422 W m(-2) K(-1), respectively). It is suggested that during development, changes in canopy structure minimize surface albedo, and development of deeper root systems optimizes access to soil water and thus potential transpiration, resulting in lower surface temperatures and increased entropy production. We discuss our results in the context of a theoretical model of entropy production versus ecosystem developmental stage. We conclude that, although further work is required, entropy production could potentially provide a much-needed theoretical basis for understanding the effects of deforestation and land-use change on the land-surface energy balance.