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A Sourcebook for the Worldwide Discovery of a Creative Organic Universe
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VI. Earth Life Emergence: Development of Body, Brain, Selves and Societies

1. Geosphere and Atmosphere

Terui, Akira, et al. Metapopulation Stability in Branching River Networks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 115/E5963, 2018. University of Minnesota and Hokkaido University system environmentalists provide a sophisticated analysis of the pervasive presence of self-similar network topologies even in these ever variable fluid flow geoscape regimes.

Intraspecific population diversity is an essential component of metapopulation stability and persistence in nature. However, current theories developed in simplified landscapes may be inadequate to predict emergent properties of branching ecosystems, a prime feature of habitat geometry. Here, we analyze a long-term dataset to show that a scale-invariant characteristic of fractal river networks, branching complexity stabilizes watershed metapopulations. In riverine systems, each branch (tributary) exhibits distinctive ecological dynamics, and confluences serve as “merging” points of those branches. We theoretically revealed that the stabilizing effect of branching complexity is due to probabilistic processes in natural conditions, where within-branch synchrony exceeds among-branch synchrony. (Abstract excerpt)

Tsonis, Anastasios and James Elsner, eds. Nonlinear Dynamics in Geosciences. Berlin: Springer, 2007. As the abstract notes, a collation to date of incipient research seeking to model earth system phenomena in this realistic actuality. Sample papers could be Two Paradigms in Landscape Dynamics: Self-Similar Processes and Emergence by Brad Murray, Abstract below, and The Role of El Niño—Southern Oscillation in Regulating its Background State by DE-Zheng Sun.

This volume is comprised of the proceedings of "20 Years of Nonlinear Dynamics in Geosciences", held June 11-16, 2006 in Rhodes, Greece as part of the Aegean Conferences. The volume brings together research from the atmospheric sciences, hydrology, geology, and other areas of Geosciences, and discusses the advances made and the future directions of nonlinear dynamics. Topics covered include predictability, ensemble prediction, nonlinear prediction, nonlinear time series analysis, low-dimensional chaos, nonlinear modeling, fractals and multifractals, bifurcation, and other aspects of nonlinear science. (Publisher)

Landscapes often exhibit self-similar (fractal, self-affine, multifractal) patterns, expressed in terms of power-law scalings. These scaling signatures are commonly interpreted as indicating that the same physical processes operate across a wide range of scales. Landscape researchers have also employed another productive perspective, that of emergent phenomena. To address relatively large-scale patterns and behaviors, rather than basing models directly on the vast number of small-scale processes occurring within the landscape, many models treat variables and interactions that arise from (and in turn influence) the collective behavior of smaller-scale degrees of freedom. Models that treat the coupled evolution of hillslopes and channels—synthesizing the effects of the many processes within these units—can explain the emergence of self-similarity (or self-affinity) of large-scale topography and river networks. A model of the evolution of sandy-coastline shapes highlights how interactions between emergent structures can offer clear, direct explanations for scaling properties. In this case, the processes and patterns are scale-independent in the sense that the length scale changes over time, while a temporally self-similar shape persists, although at any time during the evolution a single wavelength dominates. However, models treating interactions between emergent landscape features show that complex, self-similar patterns and behaviors can be understood in terms of relatively simple, essentially deterministic processes. (Abstract, Brad Murray)

Turcotte, Donald. Self-Organized Complexity in Geomorphology. Geomorphology. 91/302, 2007. The University of California, Davis, geologist has been a pioneer advocate for the view that all forms of earth’s crustal geo and hydro spheres – coastlines, landscape contours, lakes, branching rivers, and so on – express a self-similar fractal topography.

Turcotte, Donald. The Relationship of Fractals in Geophysics to “The New Science”. Chaos, Solitons and Fractals. 19/255, 2004. The earth’s strata is distinguished by many self-similar patterns. In addition, cellular automata models such as advanced by Stephan Wolfram are also found to apply. The entire journal issue is devoted to “Fractals in Geophysics.”

Valentini, Luca, et al. The “Small World” Topology of Rock Fracture Networks. Physica A. 377/323, 2007. In every diverse nook and cranny the same geometry and grace is apparently at work.

The fractal nature of fracture networks suggests that they might be regarded as complex systems, i.e., systems formed by a series of non-linearly interacting elements whose behavior cannot be fully characterized by studying the system at the scale of single components. (323-324)

Van de Koppel, Johan, et al. The Influence of Local- and Landscape-scale Processes on Spatial Self-Organization in Estuarine Ecosystems. Journal of Experimental Biology. 215/962, 2012. As the Abstract details, Netherlands Institute of Ecology, Center for Estuarine and Marine Ecology, researchers show how generic complex dynamical phenomena well apply across diverse varieties of biotic environments. A natural universality is ever found to be wider and deeper in our organic genesis universe.

Complexity theory proposes that spatial self-organization, the process whereby small-scale, localized interactions among the components of a system generate complex spatial structures at large spatial scales, explains the formation of autogenic spatial patterns in ecosystems. We question this premise by reviewing three estuarine ecosystems – mussel beds, mudflats and salt marshes – where self-organization has been put forward to explain spatial patterns. Our review highlights that these self-organized estuarine systems are shaped by the combination of small-scale interactions between ecological and physical processes on the one hand, and large-scale physical forcing on the other. More specifically, local interactions generate patchiness at small spatial scales, whereas landscape forcing determines the shape and orientation of these patches in the landscape. We present a framework that illustrates how self-organized ecosystems are shaped by interactions between organisms and physical processes occurring at multiple spatial scales. (Summary)

Wang, Yifeng, et al. Self-Organized Iron-Oxide Cementation Geometry as an Indicator of Paleo-Flows. Nature Scientific Reports. 5/10792, 2015. As a worldwise personsphere proceeds to learn on its bicameral own, Wang, Sandia Laboratories, Marjorie Chan, University of Utah, and Enrique Merino, Indiana University describe a nonlinear natural geology and then apply it over the temporal eons to inform our 21st century self-reconstruction.

Widespread iron oxide precipitation from groundwater in fine-grained red beds displays various patterns, including nodulation, banding and scallops and fingers. Hematite nodules have been reported also from the Meridiani Planum site on Mars and interpreted as evidence for the ancient presence of water on the red planet. Here we show that such patterns can autonomously emerge from a previously unrecognized Ostwald ripening mechanism and they capture rich information regarding ancient chemical and hydrologic environments. A linear instability analysis of the reaction-transport equations suggests that a pattern transition from nodules to bands may result from a symmetry breaking of mineral dissolution and precipitation triggered by groundwater advection. Round nodules tend to develop under nearly stagnant hydrologic conditions, while repetitive bands form in the presence of persistent water flows. Since water circulation is a prerequisite for a sustainable subsurface life, a Martian site with iron oxide precipitation bands, if one were found, may offer a better chance for detecting extraterrestrial biosignatures on Mars than would sites with nodules. (Abstract)

Watkins, Nicholas and Mervyn Freeman. Natural Complexity. Science. 320/323, 2008. Scientists from the British Antarctic Survey seek a revised Earth Systems Science which abides in and springs from a dynamically creative, self-similar network nature.

One such avenue is based on the science of complexity, which describes systems with many strongly interacting parts, concentrating on how the parts connect. A particularly influential strand of complexity science unites two ideas: universality (a given property arises in different complex systems) and emergence (complex behaviors arise from simple interaction rules. (323)

Werner, B. T. Complexity in Natural Landform Patterns. Science. 284/102, 1999. The standard reductionist methods are no longer suitable; therefore: An alternative modeling methodology based on the tendency of natural systems to self-organize in temporal hierarchies is described. (102)

Werner, Brad and Dylan McNamara. Dynamics of Coupled Human-Landscape Systems. Geomorphology. 91/393, 2007. From an issue on Complexity in Geomorphology, (see Preface by Murray and Fonstad above) University of California, San Diego geophysicists explain how both diverse land forms and persons in societies are distinguished by the same nonlinear, hierarchical phenomena. Circa 2010 might we at last realize that the very ground we walk upon is a natural scripture, with the same chapter and verse being repeated in our individual and communal lives?

A preliminary dynamical analysis of landscapes and humans as hierarchical complex systems suggests that strong coupling between the two that spreads to become regionally or globally pervasive should be focused at multi-year to decadal time scales. At these scales, landscape dynamics is dominated by water, sediment and biological routing mediated by fluvial, oceanic, atmospheric processes and human dynamics is dominated by simplifying, profit-maximizing market forces and political action based on projection of economic effect. (393) Based on this analysis, human-landscape coupled systems can be modeled using heterogeneous agents employing prediction models to determine actions to represent the nonlinear behavior of economic and political systems and rule-based routing algorithms to represent landscape processes. (393)

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