The (scaling) laws of the jungle


Apr 19, 2021

 

Eddie Lee et al. find scaling laws in forests

 

A forest looks like a hotbed of randomness, with trees and plants scattered in wild and capricious diversity. But appearances can be deceiving, say a trio of complexity researchers at the Santa Fe Institute (SFI). Underneath that apparent messiness lurk extraordinary regularities, governed by the biological mechanisms that drive universal forces of growth, death, and competition.

 

In a paper published April 9 in the journal PNAS, the SFI group, led by Eddie Lee, then Postdoctoral Fellow at the SFI, since April a PostDoc at the Hub, describes a new framework that can reproduce those spatial and temporal patterns that emerge in places and spaces where plants grow together.

 

The framework uses computational and statistical tools to connect metabolic principles, which control how an individual organism lives and thrives, to the diverse arrangements of trees, shrubs, and other vegetation readily observed in landscapes, forests and beyond.

 

“This paper goes a long way in showing how things that look arbitrary and capricious can in fact be understood within a mathematical framework,” says CSH External Faculty member Geoffrey West, who collaborated with Eddie and SFI Prof Chris Kempes on the model.

 

 

Mathematical laws for plants

 

Scientists have long sought mathematical laws that connect the similar patterns that emerge at large and small scales of existence. “If you look at the microscopic structure of multicellular life, you see a lot of the same patterns playing out,” says Eddie. The metabolic rate of an organism follows a power scaling law with its mass, for example. Previous attempts at establishing such mathematical laws for the assemblage of plants in a forest have been a source of vociferous debate.

 

In previous work, Geoffrey and others have developed models that start with the metabolic constraints on a single, optimized tree to make predictions about patterns that might emerge in a community of such trees. The model accurately showed how features like growth rate or canopy size might change with plant size—and how those features might affect competition with other organisms or change the structure of the entire forest.

 

 

A model informed by biological principles

 

Kempes says that this idealized model paved the way for connecting biological principles like metabolism to mathematical, macro-level patterns, but over time researchers began to focus on how real-world situations differ in detail from that model. Not every tree or population follows the optimal rules, though, leading researchers like Lee to investigate new ways to generalize the core tenets.

 

“What happens when that law for scaling deviates for individual species, or for different contexts? How does that work?” says Kempes. “How do all those fit together?”

 

The new model extends essential ideas from earlier works for how to set up a model informed by the biological principles of growth, death, and resource competition, but it also allows a user to generalize those ideas to a wide range of species and situations, says Kempes. A user might relax certain assumptions about tree allometries—relationships between size and shape—or incorporate ideas about how trees interact with other organisms, like termites.

 

 

Physics-inspired approaches for understanding bio-complexity

 

By turning these “knobs” on the simulation, Eddie says, researchers can more closely reproduce the diverse ways that forests diverge from the idealized model. They can also clearly connect biological principles at the level of the organism to how forest structure plays out on larger scales.

 

Geoffrey says the new approach will not only reveal scaling laws that have been previously gone unnoticed but also shine a light on new areas of investigation. “One of the great things about having an analytical model of this kind is that it points to where data is missing, or where data is poor,” he says, “and the kinds of things people should be measuring.”

 

The model also shows how a physics-inspired approach—which often focuses on idealized situations—can contribute to advances in understanding biological complexity. “There is this marvelous interplay between the fields,” Geoffrey says.

 

 

 

 

This text is based on a SFI Press Release.

Use of text and illustration with permission.


Press

Gekipptes Fenster [Print]


Kronen Zeitung, Sep 17, 2021

Press

Ab wann die Ansteckungswelle gebrochen wird


Ö1 | Mittagsjournal, Sep 17, 2021

Press

Una red global de científicos medirá qué éxito tuvieron las medidas sanitarias para frenar la pandemia [Spanish]


Infobae, Sep 16, 2021

Press

Neue Corona-Verordnung: Schafft endlich Klarheit!


Kronen Zeitung, Sep 16, 2021

News

Sep 15, 2021

Impressions from this year's Hub Retreat

Publication

V. Machàcek, M. Srholec, M. R. Ferreira, et al.

Researchers’ institutional mobility: bibliometric evidence on academic inbreeding and internationalization

Science and Public Policy (2021) scab064

Publication

M. Hâncean, J. Lerner, M. Perc, M. Ghita, D. Bunaciu, A. Stoica, B. Mihaila

The role of age in the spreading of COVID-19 across a social network in Bucharest

Journal of Complex Networks 9 (4) (2021) cnab026

Publication

J. Einsiedler, et al.

Transferable Models to Understand the Impact of Lockdown Measures on Local Air Quality

in: Proceedings of the 3rd International Workshop on Urban Computing (UrbCom) (2021)

News

Sep 6, 2021

CSH in Albpach | The Great Green Transformation | Panel Discussion

News

Sep 1, 2021

Fariba Karimi nominated for Hedy Lamarr Award

Publication

M. Hakkar,et al.

Enhancing rare earth element transfer from phosphate rock to phosphoric acid using an inexpensive fly ash additive

Minerals Engineering 172 (2021) 107166

News

Aug 2, 2021

The future of COVID-19 in Europe

Press

Gekipptes Fenster [Print]


Kronen Zeitung, Sep 17, 2021

Press

Ab wann die Ansteckungswelle gebrochen wird


Ö1 | Mittagsjournal, Sep 17, 2021

Press

Una red global de científicos medirá qué éxito tuvieron las medidas sanitarias para frenar la pandemia [Spanish]


Infobae, Sep 16, 2021

Press

Neue Corona-Verordnung: Schafft endlich Klarheit!


Kronen Zeitung, Sep 16, 2021

News

Sep 15, 2021

Impressions from this year's Hub Retreat

Publication

V. Machàcek, M. Srholec, M. R. Ferreira, et al.

Researchers’ institutional mobility: bibliometric evidence on academic inbreeding and internationalization

Science and Public Policy (2021) scab064

Publication

M. Hâncean, J. Lerner, M. Perc, M. Ghita, D. Bunaciu, A. Stoica, B. Mihaila

The role of age in the spreading of COVID-19 across a social network in Bucharest

Journal of Complex Networks 9 (4) (2021) cnab026

Publication

J. Einsiedler, et al.

Transferable Models to Understand the Impact of Lockdown Measures on Local Air Quality

in: Proceedings of the 3rd International Workshop on Urban Computing (UrbCom) (2021)

News

Sep 6, 2021

CSH in Albpach | The Great Green Transformation | Panel Discussion

News

Sep 1, 2021

Fariba Karimi nominated for Hedy Lamarr Award

Publication

M. Hakkar,et al.

Enhancing rare earth element transfer from phosphate rock to phosphoric acid using an inexpensive fly ash additive

Minerals Engineering 172 (2021) 107166

News

Aug 2, 2021

The future of COVID-19 in Europe

News

Sep 15, 2021

Impressions from this year's Hub Retreat

News

Sep 6, 2021

CSH in Albpach | The Great Green Transformation | Panel Discussion

News

Sep 1, 2021

Fariba Karimi nominated for Hedy Lamarr Award

News

Aug 2, 2021

The future of COVID-19 in Europe

News

Jul 29, 2021

CSH and Austrian Railways OeBB launch joint project

News

Jul 28, 2021

Disease network analysis shows: healthy overweight is possible

News

Jul 22, 2021

New CSH team leader Frank Neffke & the "science of cities"

News

Jul 10, 2021

Peter Klimek about delta variant: "We must remain vigilant, also with kids"

News

Jul 7, 2021

Blog | Jenny Reddish: "Introduction to the new Crisis Databank at the Hub"

News

Jun 30, 2021

We proudly present: 5 years CSH | The Report

News

Jun 22, 2021

Digital Humanism: CSH successful with three projects

News

Jun 17, 2021

TU Wien–CSH Vienna COVID-19 project | Final Report

Press

Gekipptes Fenster [Print]


Kronen Zeitung, Sep 17, 2021

Press

Ab wann die Ansteckungswelle gebrochen wird


Ö1 | Mittagsjournal, Sep 17, 2021

Press

Una red global de científicos medirá qué éxito tuvieron las medidas sanitarias para frenar la pandemia [Spanish]


Infobae, Sep 16, 2021

Press

Neue Corona-Verordnung: Schafft endlich Klarheit!


Kronen Zeitung, Sep 16, 2021

Press

Klimek empfiehlt 2G-Regel


Ö2 | Wien | Stadtjournal, Sep 16, 2021

Press

Klimek traut Stufe 1 nur Minimalwirkung zu


ORF Online | Wien, Sep 15, 2021

Press

Peter Klimek zur CoV-Entwicklung


ORF 2 | Wien | heute, Sep 15, 2021

Press

Strengere CoV-Regeln


ORF 2 | Report, Sep 14, 2021

Press

Virologin von Laer: "Brauchen noch eine Million Immunisierte für Gesamtschutz"


Der Standard, Sep 13, 2021

Press

1.543 Corona-Neuinfektionen, Stufenplan "sehr risikoreich"


meinbezirk.at, Sep 13, 2021

Press

Zu wenige Intensivbetten: Hat die Politik den Ausbau verschlafen?


Der Standard, Sep 13, 2021

Press

Von Laer: Noch Million Geimpfte für Pandemie-Ende


Kronen Zeitung, Sep 13, 2021

Publication

V. Machàcek, M. Srholec, M. R. Ferreira, et al.

Researchers’ institutional mobility: bibliometric evidence on academic inbreeding and internationalization

Science and Public Policy (2021) scab064

Publication

M. Hâncean, J. Lerner, M. Perc, M. Ghita, D. Bunaciu, A. Stoica, B. Mihaila

The role of age in the spreading of COVID-19 across a social network in Bucharest

Journal of Complex Networks 9 (4) (2021) cnab026

Publication

J. Einsiedler, et al.

Transferable Models to Understand the Impact of Lockdown Measures on Local Air Quality

in: Proceedings of the 3rd International Workshop on Urban Computing (UrbCom) (2021)

Publication

M. Hakkar,et al.

Enhancing rare earth element transfer from phosphate rock to phosphoric acid using an inexpensive fly ash additive

Minerals Engineering 172 (2021) 107166

Publication

Y. Zhang, et al.

Unified treatment of synchronization patterns in generalized networks with higher-order, multilayer, and temporal interactions

Communications Physics 4 (2021) 195

Publication

T. M. Pham, A. C. Alexander, J. Korbel, R. Hanel, S. Thurner

Balance and fragmentation in societies with homophily and social balance

Scientific Reports 11 (2021) 17188

Publication

S. U. Wetzels, et al.

Wolves, dogs and humans in regular contact can mutually impact each other’s skin microbiota

Scientific Reports 11 (2021) 17106

Publication

D. Wolpert, D. Kinney

Noisy Deductive Reasoning: How Humans Construct Math, and How Math Constructs Universes

in: A. Aguirre et al. (eds), Undecidability, Uncomputability and Unpredictability, Springer Cham 2021, 147-167

Publication

M. Serra-Peralta, J. Serrà, Á. Corral

Heaps’ law and vocabulary richness in the history of classical music harmony

EPJ Data Science 10 (2021) 40

Publication

A. Presbitero, V. Melnikov, V. Krzhizkhanovskaya, P. M. A. Sloot

A unifying model to estimate the effect of heat stress in the human innate immunity during physical activities

Scientific Reports 11 (2021) 16688

Publication

A.S. Sunahara, M. Perc, H.V. Ribeiro

Association between productivity and journal impact across disciplines and career age

Physical Review Research 3 (2021) 033158

Publication

S.N. Chowdhury, S. Kundu, M. Perc, D. Ghosh

Complex evolutionary dynamics due to punishment and free space in ecological multigames

Proceedings Royal Society 477 (2252) (2021) 20210397