Video: the Interrelated and Networked Earth

Candice Gaukel Andrews March 3, 2016 16
Almost a third of global farm output depends on animal pollination, largely by honeybees. But a mystery syndrome called “colony collapse disorder” (CCD) has devastated honeybee numbers around the world. No scientific cause for CCD has been proven. ©Thangaraj Kumaravel, flickr

Almost a third of global farm output depends on animal pollination, largely by honeybees. But colony collapse disorder has devastated honeybee numbers, with reverberations in food supplies around the world. ©Thangaraj Kumaravel, flickr

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?

] Our planet is made up of millions of intricate, natural networks. ©From the video “Network Earth,” Mauro Martino and Jianxi Gao

Our planet is made up of millions of intricate, natural networks. ©From the video “Network Earth,” Mauro Martino and Jianxi Gao

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,

Candy

16 Comments »

  1. Carolyn E. Balls April 16, 2016 at 2:47 pm - Reply

    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.

  2. Tegoy NL April 16, 2016 at 1:15 pm - Reply

    Excellent. Innovative, clear and constructive!

  3. Randy Bartlett April 16, 2016 at 12:29 pm - Reply

    Everything is connected to everything…!-)

  4. Elizabeth Crisfield April 16, 2016 at 12:28 pm - Reply

    I loved this research. Thanks for sharing that video… I had only seen the paper.

  5. Kathryn Papp April 16, 2016 at 11:46 am - Reply

    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.

  6. Chris Jenkins March 20, 2016 at 4:17 pm - Reply

    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.

  7. Hassan Kalombo March 20, 2016 at 4:16 pm - Reply

    It’s amazing tool for natural resources management, very educative thanks

  8. Oscar Murga March 20, 2016 at 4:15 pm - Reply

    Excellent communication tool… Thanks for sharing… very important to do so…

  9. Ted Hartsig March 20, 2016 at 4:14 pm - Reply

    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.

  10. Kimberly Jones, MS March 20, 2016 at 4:13 pm - Reply

    Wonderful video that does great job of simply explaining interdependence of species and resiliency.

  11. Rick Simpson March 12, 2016 at 11:55 am - Reply

    Thank you….

  12. Mick Davis March 9, 2016 at 6:15 am - Reply

    This is brilliant- and a great example of good Science Communications too!

  13. Don Reyntjes March 7, 2016 at 5:35 pm - Reply

    Excellent. Innovative, clear and constructive; thank you!

  14. Geoffrey Whitehead March 6, 2016 at 12:32 pm - Reply

    This video illustrates the complexity we as a species need to get our heads around.

  15. Jack Daugherty March 6, 2016 at 12:29 pm - Reply

    Thanks for sharing, Ms. Candice.

  16. Fernando Esquivel de Sola March 6, 2016 at 12:10 pm - Reply

    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.

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