The collapse of efficient forests

When I read The Upside of Down last month, I became captivated by an explanation of how forests collapse. I reread those few pages four times over a two day period, allowing the concepts to tie into my understanding of change models, self-sabotage and renewal following a setback. For starters, here are the facets of a systemic collapse of forests:
  • Forests are sandwiched between the soil conditions and local climate. Forests do not succeed in isolation from their contexts. How well they thrive depends on external factors, as well as internal dynamics.
  • The fertile soil supporting a forest is teeming with potential novelty, variety and innovation. When a need arises for some new experiments, the soil delivers if it's not drought-stricken, water-logged, infested or starved for nutrients.
  • Forests provide a feast for a phenomenal number of animals, plants, insects and microorganisms. Forests offer a wide variety of ecological niches to exploit.
  • Successful invaders of those niches give back to the forest. These reciprocities are mutually beneficial and self-perpetuating.
  • Forests progress toward greater efficiency. They reduce redundancies and commit to particular exploiters of their ecological niches.
  • The effect on the forest of this greater efficiency is devastating. The lack of inefficiency moves the forest toward the brink of collapse.
  • The loose coupling between the variety of reciprocities becomes tightly-coupled. The dynamics of the forest lose resilience and becomes rigid.
  • Any forest can get stressed by an invasion of pests, a prolonged drought or a lightening ignition. Efficient, cohesive forests have eliminated their gaps, disconnects and buffers that could interrupt the wave of destruction. The attack takes down the entire forest.
  • Forests with the resilience to rebound after an attack maintain inefficiencies. Their interdependencies are loosely coupled and open to continual disruptions. They support continued diversity and lack of conformity.
  • Devastation gets localized in resilient forests because it cannot sweep across the entire system. The lack of efficiency, focused commitments and uniformity disrupts the spread of disease, fire or collapse.
  • The openings created in the forest by the partial losses provide additional ecological niches for new species to exploit. The latent novelty in the soil provides new experiments. The forest rebounds with innovative partnerships and mutual benefits.
In the next post, I'll apply these to Web 2.0 and falling by the wayside.

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