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25 FEBRUARY 2016

Universal resilience patterns in complex networks

"Resilience, a system's ability to adjust its activity to retain its basic functionality when errors, failures and environmental changes occur, is a defining property of many complex systems. Despite widespread consequences for human health, the economy and the environment, events leading to loss of resilience—from cascading failures in technological systems to mass extinctions in ecological networks—are rarely predictable and are often irreversible. These limitations are rooted in a theoretical gap: the current analytical framework of resilience is designed to treat low-dimensional models with a few interacting components, and is unsuitable for multi-dimensional systems consisting of a large number of components that interact through a complex network. Here we bridge this theoretical gap by developing a set of analytical tools with which to identify the natural control and state parameters of a multi-dimensional complex system, helping us derive effective one-dimensional dynamics that accurately predict the system's resilience. The proposed analytical framework allows us systematically to separate the roles of the system's dynamics and topology, collapsing the behaviour of different networks onto a single universal resilience function. The analytical results unveil the network characteristics that can enhance or diminish resilience, offering ways to prevent the collapse of ecological, biological or economic systems, and guiding the design of technological systems resilient to both internal failures and environmental changes."

(Jianxi Gao, Baruch Barzel & Albert-László Barabási, 17 February 2016, Nature)

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TAGS

2016Albert-Laszlo Barabasi • Baruch Barzel • biological systems • cascading failure • Cognitive Visualization Lab • complex networkscomplex systems • critical phenomena • data visualisationdroughtecological balance • ecological networks • ecological sustainability • ecological systems • ecosystemenvironmental changeenvironmental statisticsextinctionglobal issuesIBM • IBM Watson • interrelationships • irreversible change • Jianxi Gao • loss of resilience • Mauro Martino • multidimensional systems • network dynamics • network earth • network ecologynetwork model • network relationships • networked interaction • nonlinear phenomena • Northeastern University • one-dimensional dynamics • phase transitions • resiliencespeciationsustainability • system collapse • technological systems • universal resilience function • universal resilience patterns • visual explanations • visual representation graphicallyvisual representations of scientific conceptsvisualising data • wildfire

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
29 DECEMBER 2009

Simon Maddrell: transforming local ecologies through sand dams

"Over the past decade, Kenyan farmers with support from development organisations such as [Excellent Development who], have constructed hundreds of sand dams. Sand dams are reinforced concrete walls built across seasonal sandy rivers. During the intense rainy seasons, the dam fills with rainwater and sediment: silt flows over the dam whilst the heavier sand sinks. As the riverbed fills with sand, around 25–40% of the water by volume is stored in the voids. The sand filters the water and reduces contamination and evaporation. The dams also transform the local ecology. They raise the water–table, recharge the aquifer and increase downstream, dry–season flows.

Examples of sand dams are found throughout the dryland regions of the world but their wider adoption is limited by a lack of awareness, appropriate support and funding.

Sand dams are the cheapest form of rainwater harvesting –a typical dam costs less than £8,000 to build, requires negligible maintenance and provides water for life for around 1,200 people. They are cost–effective, community owned and sustainable. They transform lives and they transform fragile environments. What's not to like?"

(17 November 2009, guardian.co.uk)

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TAGS

2009Africaautonomyclimate changecommunity • drinking water • drought • dryland • Earthwatch Institute • ecologyengineeringenvironment • Geographical Society • geography • Kenya • NGOsand • sand dams • science • seasonal • sustainabilityUKwater

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
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