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Structural loop analysis of complex ecological systems

Structural loop analysis of complex ecological systems
Structural loop analysis of complex ecological systems
Ecosystems are complex and dynamic making them challenging to understand. We urgently need to assess human impacts on ecosystems which cause changes in structural feedbacks producing large, hard to reverse changes in state and functioning. System dynamics has proven to be a useful and versatile methodology for modelling complex systems given the comparative ease with which feedback loops can be modelled. However, a common issue arises when models become too large and structurally complex to understand the causal drivers of system behaviour. There is a need for an intermediate level of analysis capable of identifying causal driving structures and dynamics, regardless of model complexity. This study investigates Loop Eigenvalue Elasticity Analysis, a structural analysis technique commonly used in business and economic system dynamics models, and evaluates its utility for identifying feedback loop structures responsible for behavioural changes in complex ecological systems. The approach is demonstrated by analysing a simple lake system model that has been extensively studied in the past for its capacity to undertake critical transitions between alternative stable states. We show how the dominance of feedback loops can be tracked through time building influence over the system's behaviour decades prior to the actual collapse in the system. We discuss our findings in the context of studying complex ecosystems and socio-ecological systems.
0921-8009
333-342
Abram, Joseph J.
7e130434-a379-4336-a870-1dee5f40a254
Dyke, James G.
e2cc1b09-ae44-4525-88ed-87ee08baad2c
Abram, Joseph J.
7e130434-a379-4336-a870-1dee5f40a254
Dyke, James G.
e2cc1b09-ae44-4525-88ed-87ee08baad2c

Abram, Joseph J. and Dyke, James G. (2018) Structural loop analysis of complex ecological systems. Ecological Economics, 154, 333-342. (doi:10.1016/j.ecolecon.2018.08.011).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Ecosystems are complex and dynamic making them challenging to understand. We urgently need to assess human impacts on ecosystems which cause changes in structural feedbacks producing large, hard to reverse changes in state and functioning. System dynamics has proven to be a useful and versatile methodology for modelling complex systems given the comparative ease with which feedback loops can be modelled. However, a common issue arises when models become too large and structurally complex to understand the causal drivers of system behaviour. There is a need for an intermediate level of analysis capable of identifying causal driving structures and dynamics, regardless of model complexity. This study investigates Loop Eigenvalue Elasticity Analysis, a structural analysis technique commonly used in business and economic system dynamics models, and evaluates its utility for identifying feedback loop structures responsible for behavioural changes in complex ecological systems. The approach is demonstrated by analysing a simple lake system model that has been extensively studied in the past for its capacity to undertake critical transitions between alternative stable states. We show how the dominance of feedback loops can be tracked through time building influence over the system's behaviour decades prior to the actual collapse in the system. We discuss our findings in the context of studying complex ecosystems and socio-ecological systems.

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Abram_J Loop Analysis - Accepted Manuscript
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More information

Accepted/In Press date: 18 August 2018
e-pub ahead of print date: 31 August 2018
Published date: 1 September 2018

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 424368
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/424368
ISSN: 0921-8009
PURE UUID: 2f500bcf-9e97-4314-b3ed-6d91aea92c50
ORCID for James G. Dyke: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-6779-1682

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 05 Oct 2018 11:36
Last modified: 14 Mar 2019 01:36

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Contributors

Author: Joseph J. Abram
Author: James G. Dyke ORCID iD

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