BioND — Dynamics of Biological Networks

Early warning signals for critical transitions: A generalized modeling approach

Steven J. Lade and Thilo Gross
PLoS Computational Biology 8, e1002360-6, 2012.



Critical transitions are sudden, often irreversible, changes that can occur in a large variety of complex systems. Signals that warn of critical transitions are highly desirable, but their construction can be impeded by limited availability of data. We propose a method that can significantly reduce the amount of time series data required for a robust early warning signal by using other information about the system. This information is integrated through the framework of a generalized model. We demonstrate the applicability of the proposed approach through several examples, including a previously published fisheries model.

Media Coverage

Rachel Ehrenberg, ScienceNews, 2012-02-08
Math tools predict when systems are on the brink.

Tim Barribeau, io9, 2012-02-03
Predicting when a complex system will go through a sudden change is hard — either you need vast swathes of information, or you make rather bad predictions. But we want to spot critical transitions before they happen, regardless of whether we're talking about irreversible damage to coral reefs, stock market crashes, or fishery collapses.