History-Dependence and Tipping Points in Patterns of Whole Ecosystems: International Centre for Mathematical Sciences (ICMS) public lecture

General event

History-Dependence and Tipping Points in Patterns of Whole Ecosystems: International Centre for Mathematical Sciences (ICMS) public lecture

  • Event time: 6:00pm
  • Event date: 21st November 2013
  • Speaker: (Heriot Watt University, School of Mathematics and Computer Science)
  • Location: International Centre for Mathematical Sciences, 15 South College Street

Event details

Abstract

The natural world abounds with spatial patterns, and the very largest of these occur when an entire ecosystem is patterned. Examples include banded vegetation in sub-Saharan Africa, striped mussel beds in the Wadden Sea, ribbon forests in North America -- and there are many others.

In this talk I will review some of these patterns and discuss the way in which mathematical models are being used to understand the underlying mechanisms and to assess their vulnerability to environmental changes. I will focus primarily on the cases of banded vegetation in semi-deserts. I will explain how mathematicians have formulated theoretical models based on ecological data and hypotheses, and how these models can be used to predict the response of the patterns to environmental changes.

One important finding that has emerged from work of this type is that as rainfall levels gradually decrease, there can be sudden shifts in pattern form, or even sudden shifts to full-blown desert. Changes of this type are known as "tipping points", and I will explain the theory behind them, and the way in which mathematics can provide clues to early warning signs of impending tipping points.

Refreshments will be served afterwards. 

Tickets are free and available via Eventbrite.

International Centre for Mathematical Sciences (ICMS) public lecture series

This Autumn/Winter, ICMS is planning 3 public talks from researchers/mathematicians based in Edinburgh.  These talks will be aimed for those aged 16+ and open to all regardless of background. This lecture series will tie in with Maths for Planet Earth 2013.

Our General events include one-off events and lectures that are hosted by, or are of relevance to, the School of Physics and Astronomy..

Find out more about General events.