Evolutionary fields can explain patterns of high-dimensional complexity in ecology

Wilsenach, James ; Landi, Pietro ; Hui, Cang (2017)

CITATION: Wilsenach, J., Landi, P. & Hui, C. 2017. Evolutionary fields can explain patterns of high-dimensional complexity in ecology. Physical Review E, 95(4):042401, doi:10.1103/PhysRevE.95.042401.

The original publication is available at https://journals.aps.org/pre

Article

One of the properties that make ecological systems so unique is the range of complex behavioral patterns that can be exhibited by even the simplest communities with only a few species. Much of this complexity is commonly attributed to stochastic factors that have very high-degrees of freedom. Orthodox study of the evolution of these simple networks has generally been limited in its ability to explain complexity, since it restricts evolutionary adaptation to an inertia-free process with few degrees of freedom in which only gradual, moderately complex behaviors are possible. We propose a model inspired by particle-mediated field phenomena in classical physics in combination with fundamental concepts in adaptation, which suggests that small but high-dimensional chaotic dynamics near to the adaptive trait optimum could help explain complex properties shared by most ecological datasets, such as aperiodicity and pink, fractal noise spectra. By examining a simple predator-prey model and appealing to real ecological data, we show that this type of complexity could be easily confused for or confounded by stochasticity, especially when spurred on or amplified by stochastic factors that share variational and spectral properties with the underlying dynamics.

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