Navigation Links
Mathematical model could help predict and prevent future extinctions
Date:1/25/2011

In an effort to better understand the dynamics of complex networks, scientists have developed a mathematical model to describe interactions within ecological food webs. This research, performed by Northwestern University physics professor Adilson Motter and his student, Sagar Sahasrabudhe, is published in the January 25 issue of Nature Communications. The work illustrates how human intervention may effectively aid species conservation efforts.

"Our study provides a theoretical basis for management efforts that would aim to mitigate extinction cascades in food web networks. There is evidence that a significant fraction of all extinctions are caused not by a primary perturbation but instead by the propagation of a cascade," said Motter.

Extinction cascades are often observed following the loss of a key species within an ecosystem. As the system changes to compensate for the loss, availability of food, territory and other resources to each of the remaining members can fluctuate wildly, creating a boom-or-bust environment that can lead to even more extinctions. According to the study, more than 70 percent of these extinctions are preventable, assuming that the system can be brought into balance using only available resources--no new factors may be introduced.

Motter explained further, "We find that extinction cascades can often be mitigated by suppressing--rather than enhancing--the populations of specific species. In numerous cases, it is predicted that even the proactive removal of a species that would otherwise be extinct by a cascade can prevent the extinction of other species."

The finding may seem counterintuitive to conservationists because the compensatory actions seem to inflict further damage to the system. However, when the entire ecosystem is considered, the effect is beneficial. This news holds promise for those charged with maintaining Earth's biodiversity and natural resources--the health of which can counteract many of the causes of climate change, and some man-made disasters such as the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

The dodo bird, Raphus cucullatus, is one example of extinction due to human activity. The dodo was a large, flightless bird that became extinct in the 1600s. It is likely that a combination of factors including hunting, loss of habitat, and perhaps even a flash flood, stressed the ecosystem on the island of Mauritius, home of the dodo. Some researchers think that human introduction of non-native species, such as dogs, pigs, cats and rats to the island, is what ultimately lead to the demise of the dodo.

In any case, in the future, it may be possible to avoid extinction of some species in stressed ecosystems by applying the new method of analysis developed by Motter.

The goal of this project, funded by the National Science Foundation's Division of Mathematical Sciences, is to develop mathematical methods to study dynamical processes in complex networks. Although the specific application mentioned here may be useful in management of ecosystems, the mathematical foundation underlying the analysis is much more universal. The broad concept is innovative in the area of complex networks because it concludes that large-scale failures can be avoided by focusing on preventing the waves of failure that follow the initial event.

This approach could be used to stabilize a wide array of complex networks. It can apply to biochemical networks in order to slow or stop progression of diseases caused by variations inside individual cells. It can also be used to manage technological networks such as the smart grid to prevent blackouts. It can even apply to regulation of complicated financial networks by identifying key factors in the early stages of a financial downturn, which, when met with human intervention, could potentially save billions of dollars.

The world is a complicated place that gets even trickier when trying to mathematically explain a complex network, especially when the network evolves within an environment that is itself changing. But, Motter says his mathematical model is promising for the study of changing environments.

"Uncertainty itself is not a problem," he quipped. "The problem comes when you cannot estimate uncertainty."


'/>"/>

Contact: Lisa Van Pay
lvanpay@nsf.gov
703-292-8796
National Science Foundation
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. Mathematical model explains how complex societies emerge, collapse
2. Consortium studying mathematical modeling of influenza infection
3. Mathematical model may result in better environment measures for the Baltic
4. New mathematical model helps biologists understand how coral dies in warming waters
5. Mathematical keys to a sixth sense -- the lateral-line system
6. Tumor growth and chemo response may be predicted by mathematical model
7. Image processing and mathematical morphology in new text by NJIT professor
8. Image processing and mathematical morphology in new text by NJIT prof
9. Purdue team creates engineered organ model for breast cancer research
10. Go figure: Math model may help researchers with stem cell, cancer therapies
11. Simple, ingenious way to create lab-on-a-chip devices could become a model for teaching and research
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Mathematical model could help predict and prevent future extinctions
(Date:6/22/2016)... -- The American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics was once ... one of the fastest-growing trade shows during the Fastest 50 ... Las Vegas . Winners ... each of the following categories: net square feet of paid ... The 2015 ACMG Annual Meeting was ranked 23 out of ...
(Date:6/20/2016)... DALLAS , June 20, 2016 ... criminal justice technology solutions for public safety, investigation, ... by the prisons involved, it has secured the ... Corrections (DOC) facilities for Managed Access Systems (MAS) ... (4) additional facilities to be installed by October, ...
(Date:6/9/2016)... Paris Police Prefecture ... solution to ensure the safety of people and operations in ... major tournament Teleste, an international technology group specialised ... today that its video security solution will be utilised by ... public safety across the country. The system roll-out is scheduled ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... HOUSTON , June 23, 2016 ... agreement with the Cy-Fair Sports Association to serve ... of the agreement, Houston Methodist Willowbrook will provide ... education and connectivity with association coaches, volunteers, athletes ... partner with the Cy-Fair Sports Association and to ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... 23, 2016   EpiBiome , a precision microbiome ... in debt financing from Silicon Valley Bank (SVB). The ... to advance its drug development efforts, as well as ... "SVB has been an incredible strategic partner to ... traditional bank would provide," said Dr. Aeron Tynes ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... June 23, 2016 Apellis Pharmaceuticals, Inc. ... clinical trials of its complement C3 inhibitor, APL-2. ... multiple ascending dose studies designed to assess the ... subcutaneous injection in healthy adult volunteers. ... as a single dose (ranging from 45 to ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... ClinCapture, the only free validated ... will showcase its product’s latest features from June 26 to June 30, 2016 ... on Disrupting Clinical Trials in The Cloud during the conference. DIA (Drug ...
Breaking Biology Technology: