Learning about complex systems

A new experience attending a conference of another community for the first time. European Conference on Complex Systems in Lucca Italy. A mix of physicists, mathematicians and engineers. Probably few ecologists and biologists, although one of the complex systems track on the conference is about living systems. I hope I can get inspired and make some new connections with my talk.

Applying Resilience Thinking – conference preps

Just a week before the resilience conference 2014 in Montpellier a short brochure of our forthcoming book on “Principles for Building Resilience: Sustaining Ecosystem Services in Social-Ecological Systems” (Cambridge University Press, 2014) has become available by the Stockholm Resilience Center. The brochure summarizes the expanded treatment of resilience principles as we have discussed in an earlier paper “Towards principles for enhancing the resilience of ecosystem services“.

Spatial methods of early warnings for tipping points

Recently our paper on spatial indicators for critical transitions was published in PloS One. In this paper we summarize methods and create a flowchart for looking for indicators of upcoming transitions in spatial data. It is a natural follow-up paper from our previous work on methods for timeseries. The methods of the paper are now summarized in the spatial indicators section of the EWS toolbox website together with the actual R code.

EWS package gets into WICI Data challenge finalists!

Our submission of an interactive visualization version of the earlywarnings R package for critical transitions in the Data Challenge competition organised by the Waterloo Institute for Complexity and Innovation got into the 4 finalists. Although we didn’t get the first place, the judges were very flattering and Leo Lahti and myself are really proud to have made it that far in a short time. We hope that this will be a kick into developing more the package and making it more interactive and available. You can read more on it here.

Species tolerance to global environmental change

A first joint work in my new lab of Jordie Bascompte got published in Nature Communications few weeks ago. By simulating mutualistic communities of 57 empirical plant pollinator and plant seed-disperser networks we identify scenarios where species’ tolerance is extremely sensitive to the direction of change in the strength of mutualistic interaction, as well as to the observed mutualistic trade-offs between the number of partners and the strength of the interactions.

Special issue on early-warning research in journal of Theoretical Ecology

After an invitation by Alan Hastings (editor-in-chief) and a year of preparation, the current issue of Theoretical Ecology is dedicated on Early Warnings and Regime Shifts.
The issue contains 11 original research papers from key contributors of the topic ranging from data analysis, to theoretical considerations, lake ecosystems to disease epidemics. We hope it will have a strong impact in the further development of anticipating regime shifts in complex systems.

Are Warning Signals specific to Catastrophic Transitions?

There is a lot of interest on the limits of resilience indicators and on whether they are uniquely associated with catastrophic transitions. We tried to shed light on that question in a short piece that just appeared in Oikos. There, we show that the same early warnings may signal non catastrophic transitions, but the same transitions are as well bifurcation points. Thus, it is not surprising that the same expectations for signals of deteriorating resilience are universal prior to any (local) bifurcation. The challenge remains in finding signals that would be specific to the catastrophic, unexpected, and irreversible shifts.

highlighted in Editor’s choice in Oikos

earlywarnings package in R libraries

logoEWS Together with Leo Lahti, we fixed bugs and moved the earlywarnings toolbox in R. It is now a library ready to be installed from your preferable CRAN repository. In the process, we also migrated the earlywarnings toolbox to github for shifitng towards open-source, community-based project development. We hope this will facilitate the use of the toolbox both for research and education. More details on the Early Warning Signals Toolbox webpage.

Passing slowly tipping points: opportunities and challenges

In a short conceptual paper that appeared this month in TREE, we play around with the idea that depending on the scale and the rate of change of ecological systems, responses to crossing tipping points may differ widely. Ecosystems without tipping points may appear hysteretic, whereas hysteretic systems may offer a window of opportunity for averting a regime shift even after having passed their tipping point. Such insights may change the way ecosystem managers and policy makers view common practices in a changing world.

Flickering before a shift to eutrophication

Together with colleagues from China and the UK we just published work on a paleo limnological record in a big chinese lake that shows a transition to eutrophication during the last 30 years. Interestingly, the data offer the possibility to show that the system exhibits bimodality and that approaching to the permanent shift ‘flickering’ between the oligotrophic and eutrophic state may be observed. We compared these results to model simulations and we conclude that flickering may be more possible to detect in the most common ecological records at hand.