CCNY finds K-core as a predictor of structural collapse in mutualistic ecosystems

October 25, 2018

A network metric called the K-core could predict structural collapse in mutualistic ecosystems, according to research by physicists at The City College of New York. The K-core appears able to forecast which species is likely to face extinction first, by global shocks such as climate change, and when an ecosystem could collapse due to external forces.

Led by Flaviano Morone and Hernán A. Makse, the physicists from CCNY's Division of Science used state of the art network theory to predict the tipping point of an ecosystem under severe external shocks like a global increase of temperature. They determined that a network metric termed the K-core of the network can predict the terrifying tipping point of climate Armageddon.

The idea applies to any network -- from species interacting in ecosystems, like plant-pollinators or predator-prey -- to financial markets where brokers interact in a financial network to determine the prices of stocks and products.

In all these networks a hierarchical structure emerges: each species in the ecosystem belong to a given shell in the network: the so called K-shells. In the periphery of the network is where the commensalists live. These are species that mainly receive the benefits from the core of the network but give nothing back (not to be confused with parasites which benefit from but at the same time harm the network core).

"Amazingly, these peripheral shells are highly populated, indeed, there are many commensalist species in most ecosystems and markets," noted Makse. "These species are predicted to go extinct first and much before the entire ecosystem collapses."

Fortunately, the CCNY theory provides early warning signals that can be monitored to predict this collapse well in advance. Indeed, monitoring the health of the vital inner K-core of the network is the clear marker to anticipate the ecosystem collapse.

"The theory has enormous implications for not only monitoring ecosystem's health but also financial markets," said Makse.
-end-
The study, whose other co-author is research associate Gino Del Ferraro, appears in the current issue of Nature Physics. Click here to read the entire paper.

City College of New York

Related Climate Change Articles from Brightsurf:

Are climate scientists being too cautious when linking extreme weather to climate change?
Climate science has focused on avoiding false alarms when linking extreme events to climate change.

Mysterious climate change
New research findings underline the crucial role that sea ice throughout the Southern Ocean played for atmospheric CO2 in times of rapid climate change in the past.

Mapping the path of climate change
Predicting a major transition, such as climate change, is extremely difficult, but the probabilistic framework developed by the authors is the first step in identifying the path between a shift in two environmental states.

Small change for climate change: Time to increase research funding to save the world
A new study shows that there is a huge disproportion in the level of funding for social science research into the greatest challenge in combating global warming -- how to get individuals and societies to overcome ingrained human habits to make the changes necessary to mitigate climate change.

Sub-national 'climate clubs' could offer key to combating climate change
'Climate clubs' offering membership for sub-national states, in addition to just countries, could speed up progress towards a globally harmonized climate change policy, which in turn offers a way to achieve stronger climate policies in all countries.

Review of Chinese atmospheric science research over the past 70 years: Climate and climate change
Over the past 70 years since the foundation of the People's Republic of China, Chinese scientists have made great contributions to various fields in the research of atmospheric sciences, which attracted worldwide attention.

A CERN for climate change
In a Perspective article appearing in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Tim Palmer (Oxford University), and Bjorn Stevens (Max Planck Society), critically reflect on the present state of Earth system modelling.

Fairy-wrens change breeding habits to cope with climate change
Warmer temperatures linked to climate change are having a big impact on the breeding habits of one of Australia's most recognisable bird species, according to researchers at The Australian National University (ANU).

Believing in climate change doesn't mean you are preparing for climate change, study finds
Notre Dame researchers found that although coastal homeowners may perceive a worsening of climate change-related hazards, these attitudes are largely unrelated to a homeowner's expectations of actual home damage.

Older forests resist change -- climate change, that is
Older forests in eastern North America are less vulnerable to climate change than younger forests, particularly for carbon storage, timber production, and biodiversity, new research finds.

Read More: Climate Change News and Climate Change Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.