BioND — Dynamics of Biological Networks

Emergence and persistence of diversity in complex networks

Gesa Boehme
PhD thesis in Physics, Dresden Technical University, 2013.



Complex networks are employed as a mathematical description of complex systems in many diff erent fields, ranging from biology to sociology, economy and ecology. Dynamical processes in these systems often display phase transitions, where the dynamics of the system changes qualitatively. In combination with these phase transitions certain components of the system might irretrievably go extinct. In this case, we talk about absorbing transitions. Developing mathematical tools, which allow for an analysis and prediction of the observed phase transitions is crucial for the investigation of complex networks.

In this thesis, we investigate absorbing transitions in dynamical networks, where a certain amount of diversity is lost. In some real-world examples, e.g. in the evolution of human societies or of ecological systems, it is desirable to maintain a high degree of diversity, whereas in others, e.g. in epidemic spreading, the diversity of diseases is worthwhile to con ne. An understanding of the underlying mechanisms for emergence and persistence of diversity in complex systems is therefore essential. Within the scope of two di erent network models, we develop an analytical approach, which can be used to estimate the prerequisites for diversity.

In the fi rst part, we study a model for opinion formation in human societies. In this model, regimes of low diversity and regimes of high diversity are separated by a fragmentation transition, where the network breaks into disconnected components, corresponding to di fferent opinions. We propose an approach for the estimation of the fragmentation point. The approach is based on a linear stability analysis of the fragmented state close to the phase transition and yields much more accurate results compared to conventional methods.

In the second part, we study a model for the formation of complex food webs. We calculate and analyze coexistence conditions for several types of species in ecological communities. To this aim, we employ an approach which involves an iterative stability analysis of the equilibrium with respect to the arrival of a new species. The proposed formalism allows for a direct calculation of coexistence ranges and thus facilitates a systematic analysis of persistence conditions for food webs.

In summary, we present a general mathematical framework for the calculation of absorbing phase transitions in complex networks, which is based on concepts from percolation theory. While the speci fic implementation of the formalism diff ers from model to model, the basic principle remains applicable to a wide range of di fferent models.