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Thread: can ecosystems be modelled?

  1. #1 can ecosystems be modelled? 
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    is it posible to model and predict the behavior of an ecosystem?
    From what I've read they are chaotic systems and close to impossible to model.
    If you can what sort of mathematics would you require to do so?


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  3. #2  
    Forum Cosmic Wizard spuriousmonkey's Avatar
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    Sure you can.

    Or are you asking: can we simulate reality in all its detail?

    Well, can you similate the attraction between you and the moon in realistic detail?

    well no.

    The idea of simulations is that you have a simplification of the system that gives a meaningful interpration on the workings of that system.

    That means you don't want it to be complex beyond comprehension.


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  4. #3  
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    Virtually any system can be "modeled." The more relevant question for many is the validity of the model, the protocol of which typically has it predict in response to pertubation.
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  5. #4  
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    The biggest problem with modeling an ecosystem is in that it is an "open" system, in that there is a continuous ability of the participating features (plants, animals) to enter and exit the ecosystem. As each of these participating features not only acts based on its own specific "design", and in turn has specific effects which it imposes on the ecosystem, it is extremely difficult to anticipate the future of an ecosystem considering the number of variables which have to be considered. At best I would expect a probability report would be most accurate.
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  6. #5  
    jjg
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    Complex systems have emergent properties that are not predictable from the part, not reducible to properties of the parts, are attributed to the behavior of the parts and have a downward causal influence on the parts.

    An example of weather. You can predict when a storm fron is occuring, but where a tornadowill touch down is unpredictable.

    Scientists have to "clump" info using algorithms and search for things in space state.
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  7. #6 Re: can ecosystems be modelled? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by druvid fae
    If you can what sort of mathematics would you require to do so?
    Differential equations. Let me get one . . . foxes and rabbits:





    These represent the population of foxes and rabbits as a function of time. But we're missing some of the connections. How about the hunter? Don't see him anywhere in those equations. We can add him. That would improve things somewhat. What about genetics? We could add that. Other factors we could add. But everything in life is connected: we miss some of the connections with our models and if those missed connections have very small effects, our models are somewhat accurate and can predict population dynamics. However some missed factors can have dramatic effects: a particularly virulent fox virus. Where did that virus come from? Perhaps it mutated from a wolf virus and entered the fox/rabbit ecosystem inadvertently by some temporary exposure of a wolf to the fox population. We can continue these connections perhaps indefinitely.
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