In a network of interacting quantities (such as a food web), we examine how qualitative and quantitative predictions change when a quantity (such as the abundance of an organism or a set of organisms) is increased. This is quantified in terms of which model parameters cause the largest change in predictions.

We consider the goal of predicting how complex networks respond to chronic (press) perturbations when characterizations of their network topology and interaction strengths are associated with uncertainty. Our primary result is the derivation of exact formulas for the expected number and probability of qualitatively incorrect predictions about a system's responses under uncertainties drawn form arbitrary distributions of error. These formulas obviate the current use of simulations, algorithms, and qualitative modeling techniques. Additional indices provide new tools for identifying which links in a network are most qualitatively and quantitatively sensitive to error, and for determining the volume of errors within which predictions will remain qualitatively determinate (i.e. sign insensitive). Together with recent advances in the empirical characterization of uncertainty in ecological networks, these tools bridge a way towards probabilistic predictions of network dynamics.

David Koslicki and Mark Novak
Accepted to The Journal of Mathematical Biology (DOI: 10.1007/s00285-017-1163-0)
Saturday, October 1, 2016
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