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,