Taking help of math to predict, prevent future extinctions

Posted By: Ani
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London, Jan 26 (ANI): Researchers at the Northwestern University have developed a mathematical model that illustrates how human intervention may effectively aid species conservation efforts.

"Our study provides a theoretical basis for management efforts that would aim to mitigate extinction cascades in food web networks. There is evidence that a significant fraction of all extinctions are caused not by a primary perturbation but instead by the propagation of a cascade," said professor Adilson Motter.

The study showed that more than 70 percent of these extinctions are preventable, assuming that the system can be brought into balance using only available resources-no new factors may be introduced.

"We find that extinction cascades can often be mitigated by suppressing-rather than enhancing-the populations of specific species. In numerous cases, it is predicted that even the proactive removal of a species that would otherwise be extinct by a cascade can prevent the extinction of other species," Motter said.

It may be possible to avoid extinction of some species in stressed ecosystems by applying the new method of analysis developed by Motter.

The model can be used to study dynamical processes in complex networks. The mathematical foundation underlying the analysis is much more universal. The broad concept is innovative in the area of complex networks because it concludes that large-scale failures can be avoided by focusing on preventing the waves of failure that follow the initial event.

The approach can be applied to biochemical networks in order to slow or stop progression of diseases caused by variations inside individual cells. It can also be used to manage technological networks such as the smart grid to prevent blackouts.

It can also be used for regulation of complicated financial networks by identifying key factors in the early stages of a financial downturn, which, when met with human intervention, could potentially save billions of dollars.

The study is published in the January 25 issue of Nature Communications. (ANI)

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