Environmental philosopher and early national park advocate John Muir wrote in his 1911 book, My First Summer in the Sierra, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” It may be the truest thing anyone ever said about nature.
Our planet is made up of millions of natural networks, from microscopic ecosystems to global bird migrations. If any one aspect of a network is changed, it will reverberate throughout the whole system. For instance, in any one network, it might take the removal of only a handful of species to collapse the entire community.
So, how can we hope to understand this complex and latticed world?
Researchers have now developed a new tool to try to simply things. Starting with an array of complex, multidimensional networks—such as biological, ecological and economic—they began using various mathematical techniques to transform them into a standard model where the system “crash” is always in the same place. The result is that the resilience of the original networks can now be predicted. And if we can tell in advance what will happen when various aspects of a network change, then we may be able to prevent catastrophic failures, such as the disappearance of honeybees or the unexpected collapse of a commercial fishery.
Watch the brand-new, five-minute video below titled Network Earth, created by Mauro Martino of Harvard University and Jianxi Gao of Boston’s Northeastern University. It was published in February 2016 in the online, international, weekly science journal Nature. It illustrates how everything is “hitched” together—a good thing to remember since change—climate change, in particular—is already here.
Here’s to finding your true places and natural habitats,
The networks have already been irrevocably broken…. there is not enough strength of will in people and governments to make the sweeping changes necessary to save the planet.
Excellent. Innovative, clear and constructive!
Everything is connected to everything…!-)
I loved this research. Thanks for sharing that video… I had only seen the paper.
It will encourage interdisciplinary scientific approachs and highlight the degree of uncertainty in complex networks.
Resilience in a system is important for restoration and to avoid the need to even do so! Right now there is work that indicates that extinction trajectories begin fifty years in advance of organisms dying out.
Thank you Candice for this great post. I agree with Mick Davis – an excellent example of good communication.
I however suspect the mathematical models described in the video will struggle to predict or explain the multitude of complex networks but as said at the end of the video the models will help us to explore and learn more about the complex interrelated world we live in. That in itself is a fantastic outcome.
It’s amazing tool for natural resources management, very educative thanks
Excellent communication tool… Thanks for sharing… very important to do so…
Excellent video. Our interdependencies extend beyond biological interactions and communications to delicate connections with physical and chemical interdependencies in the natural world. Climate change, urbanization, changes in how or where we use water (among countless other changes) all have substantial impacts on this complex network. The more we understand our interrelationships with this web of life, the better we might be to live within it.
Wonderful video that does great job of simply explaining interdependence of species and resiliency.
This is brilliant- and a great example of good Science Communications too!
Excellent. Innovative, clear and constructive; thank you!
This video illustrates the complexity we as a species need to get our heads around.
Thanks for sharing, Ms. Candice.
New mathematical tools to predict how ecosystems and other networks might react to environmental changes. Imagine what we can do to predict and prevent failures and catastrophic damages to our immediate surroundings, regions & planet! Thank you Candice Gaukel Andrews for sharing this research.