New Publication on Social-Ecological Tipping Points

There has been an increasing amount of  work on tipping points lately (see my earlier post on our paper reviewing this work).  Researchers have finally begun to put rigor into looking at social tipping points in a similar fashion to the quantitative techniques of biophysical systems.  What I mean is that, while I love reading Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Tipping Point”, anecdotal discussion of tipping points is often post-hoc hand-waving.

Recently, I had the wonderful opportunity to work with Jean-Denis Mathias and several other frequent collaborators to model tipping points in a social-ecological system (see citation below).  In the model, there were potential tipping points in both the social and ecological sections of the model with feedback and interactions across the model.  For those interested in details, we used a common bioeconomic model for the ecosystem and an opinion dynamic model to exhibit potential social tipping points.

We wanted to explore transition pathways – how we get from a current state of the world to a new one while potentially crossing multiple tipping points.  Here’s a diagram that explains this simply (Figure 1 in the article).  We position this simple mathematical model as a means to help us understand a complex, nonlinear world and how to go about making thoughtful educated decisions in such an environment.  The DOI link below will take you to an electronic version of the full text.

Figure 1


Mathias, J. D., Anderies, J. M., Baggio, J., Hodbod, J., Huet, S., Janssen, M. A., … & Schoon, M. (2020). exploring non-linear transition pathways in social-ecological systems. Scientific reports10(1), 1-12.  DOI link

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