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Complex Systems

  • Atlantic hydrothermal vent life Featured News Article Atlantic hydrothermal vent life Atlantic hydrothermal vent life

    Explorers on NOAA expedition discover chemosynthetic shrimp, tubeworms together for first time at hydrothermal vent, also first live vent tubeworms seen in Atlantic waters... More »

  • Mass Extinction on Earth Featured Article Mass Extinction on Earth Mass Extinction on Earth

    ?Main Image: Earth's warming climate is contributing to an infection (Chytridiomycosis*) responsible for tropical frog extinctions. Credit: Nicolle Rager Fuller, National Science... More »

  • Detecting ecosystem change in advance Featured News Article Detecting ecosystem change in advance Detecting ecosystem change in advance

    A Tale of Two Lakes: One Gives Early Warning Signal for Ecosystem Collapse First experimental evidence that radical ecosystem change can be detected in advance Researchers... More »

  • Agriculture II Featured Photo Gallery Agriculture II Agriculture II

    Humans began to cultivate food crops about 10,000 years ago. Prior to that time, hunter-gatherers secured their food as they traveled in the nearby environment. When they... More »

  • Era of canopy crane ending Featured News Article Era of canopy crane ending Era of canopy crane ending

    ?Main Image: Scientists in the gondola were able to reach the canopy in a 560-foot circle of the forests. Source: U.S. Forest Service. Era of canopy crane ending; certain... More »

  • Ocean acidification troubles Featured Article Ocean acidification troubles Ocean acidification troubles

    The seas in which corals and other calcifying species dwell are turning acidic, their pH slowly dropping as Earth's oceans acidify in response to increased carbon dioxide... More »

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Complex Systems Last Updated on 2013-10-24 15:13:11 As Science has begun to ask where the enduring features of nature come from and how they work, the answer seems to be “complex systems”.  Every kind of thing and event seems to require them.  As the science has advanced, and as the modern problems of economies and environmental conflicts emerge, a new kind of science is emerging that requires being very openly exploratory, using all the tools and combining all the related perspectives of others, to develop complex knowledge systems matching the variety of the complex system problems they respond to. Systems are storms or “like storms” in many respects, complex distributed phenomena that may be either unexpectedly eventful or highly predictable.  There’s still a rather wide range of opinion within science as to what complex systems are, even whether they are made of information or... More »
Changes in the Landscape of Arctic Traditional Food Last Updated on 2013-10-21 23:45:06 This article, written by Tim Lougheed*, appeared first in Environmental Health Perspectives—the peer-reviewed, open access journal of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. The article is a verbatim version of the original and is not available for edits or additions by Encyclopedia of Earth editors or authors. Companion articles on the same topic that are editable may exist within the Encyclopedia of Earth.   The Changing Landscape of Arctic Traditional Food The earliest European explorers seeking a northwest passage to Asia did not know what to make of the indigenous inhabitants they encountered in what is now Canada. In the 1500s, Martin Frobisher thought they were Asians and took a number as slaves; none survived more than a few weeks in captivity. Later adventurers acquired a profound respect for the knowledge that had enabled Inuit (“the... More »
Collectively seeing complex systems Last Updated on 2013-09-10 16:04:27 Economists use multiple patterns of thinking to understand economies: market models, Marxist arguments, Keynesian and monetary theories, institutional analysis, and other forms. There is no more general model that unites the more specific models. Similarly, ecologists understand ecosystems through models emphasizing food webs, material and energy flows, population dynamics and species interactions, evolutionary processes, and spatial patterns. Divisions in scientific understanding also arise through the different spatial and temporal bounds scientists put on their analyses as well as different assumptions they make about how the parts of reality they are studying relate to the whole. For example, most economists, if they consider the environment at all, make very simple assumptions about ecosystems, while most ecologists, if they consider the economy at all, make very simple assumptions... More »
Ocean acidification troubles Last Updated on 2012-08-09 00:00:00 The seas in which corals and other calcifying species dwell are turning acidic, their pH slowly dropping as Earth's oceans acidify in response to increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Trouble in Paradise: Ocean Acidification This Way Comes Sustainability of tropical corals in question, but some species developing survival mechanisms The following Discovery article is part two in a series on the National Science Foundation's Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability (SEES) investment. Visit parts one, three, four, five, six and seven in this series. The following is part five in a series on the National Science Foundation's Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network. Visit parts one, two, three, four, six, seven, eight and nine in this series. Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and caldron bubble. —Shakespeare,... More »
Less rainfall for drought-sensitive Southern Hemisphere regions? Last Updated on 2012-05-18 00:00:00 Increasing aridity could lead to major problems for societies and ecosystems in already-arid places. Dead Ahead: Less Rainfall for Drought-Sensitive Southern Hemisphere Regions? Warming climate may mean less rainfall for drought-sensitive regions of the Southern Hemisphere, according to results just published by an international research team. Geoscientist Curt Stager of Paul Smith's College in Paul Smiths, N.Y., and colleagues found that rainfall in South Africa during the last 1,400 years was affected by temperature--with more rain falling during cool periods and less during warm ones. The findings, published in the journal Climate of the Past, are supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF). "The link between climate change and rainfall in certain latitudes can have large effects on ecosystems," said Paul Filmer, program officer in NSF's... More »