Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Ecological 'flash mobs': It's all about timing ... and magnets?

08.04.2015

Study finds new ways of measuring synchrony in ecology

How does an acorn know to fall when the other acorns do? What triggers insects, or disease, to suddenly break out over large areas? Why do fruit trees have boom and bust years?


This image illustrates local population density near a critical transition in the synchrony of an ecological system.

Credit: UC Davis

The question of what generates such synchronous, ecological "flash mobs" over long distances has long perplexed population ecologists. Part of the answer has to do with something seemingly unrelated: what makes a magnet a magnet.

A study by scientists at the University of California, Davis, found that the same mathematical model that's been used to study how magnets work - a well-known concept in physics called the Ising model -- can be applied to understanding what causes events to occur at the same time over long distances, despite the absence of an external, disruptive force.

The work, published online April 8 in the journal Nature Communications, provides new ways of measuring synchrony in ecology, which has broader implications for things like extinction and disease.

ANIMAL -- AND FRUIT TREE -- MAGNETISM

What does all of this have to do with the magnet holding up the to-do list on your refrigerator?

Consider the vole.

"They get kicked out of the nest and have a typical distance they travel," said co-leading author Alan Hastings, a professor in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy. "But the populations are rising and falling over much longer distances. The effect on the voles is happening much farther than that individual vole travels in his lifetime."

That effect can be explained by the Ising model, according to the study.

Or, take fruit trees.

Every few years certain trees bear exceptional amounts of fruit or nuts in between years when they produce almost none in a poorly understood process called masting.

"All the fruit trees have their big year on the same year because of the same model that has to do with getting little magnets lined up at once to create a big-scale magnet," Hastings explained. "Improving our understanding of models that describe how things go into synchrony over long distances is very important for understanding population dynamics."

SCIENCE MASHUPS

The work was funded by the National Science Foundation's INSPIRE program, which supports interdisciplinary collaborations between scientific fields that don't often work together.

"Our paper forges an unexpectedly strong connection between physics and population biology," said co-leading author Andrew Noble, a UC Davis project scientist. "It's the discovery of a common framework for understanding seemingly unrelated scientific questions."

###

More information:

http://ucdavis.edu/

Media Contact

Alan Hastings
amhastings@ucdavis.edu
530-752-8116

 @ucdavisnews

http://www.ucdavis.edu 

Alan Hastings | EurekAlert!

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht For a chimpanzee, one good turn deserves another
27.06.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Mathematik in den Naturwissenschaften (MPIMIS)

nachricht New method to rapidly map the 'social networks' of proteins
27.06.2017 | Salk Institute

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Touch Displays WAY-AX and WAY-DX by WayCon

27.06.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Drones that drive

27.06.2017 | Information Technology

Ultra-compact phase modulators based on graphene plasmons

27.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>