Vulnerability Analysis of Ecological Systems

Carina R. Lalyer, Arnim von gleich, Bernd Giese,  Gene Drives at Tipping Points,  2020.

Vulnerability analysis can be seen as the counterpart to technology characterization. Technology characterisation scrutinises the intervening technology. Vulnerability analyses potentially affected systems. That may be socio-ecological, socio-technical, socio-economic or other systems. In this chapter ecological systems are in focus.

Vulnerability analysis can be seen as the counterpart to technology characterization. Technology characterisation scrutinises the intervening technology. Vulnerability analyses potentially affected systems. That may be socio-ecological, socio-technical, socio-economic or other systems. In this chapter ecological systems are in focus.

Ecosystems represent complex assemblies whose dynamics are still far from being fully understood. Modelling the behaviour of ecological systems is thus a challenging task. Extensive abstractions are required to enable the analysis of the performance of at least some of its elements under changing environmental conditions or in the presence of certain stressors. In particular, for “novel entities” (Steffen et al. ) like gene drives, an analysis of their possible impact on ecosystems is complicated especially because of the lack of comparative cases. In the course of a vulnerability analysis of an ecosystem affected by gene drives, assessments of potential impacts are only possible in a rather simplified form. As an ecosystem may be defined by the interactions between its biotic and abiotic elements (Chapin et al. , p. 5), the vulnerability analysis of an ecosystem requires an investigation at different hierarchical levels, from species characterization to the organism’s interactions with the environment including its abiotic attributes (De Lange et al. ). Elements of these levels as for example species that fulfil important functions like ecosystem engineers, may represent central parts of tipping point dynamics when they are affected above a certain threshold.

To explore the relevant criteria for a vulnerability analysis of ecosystems that are confronted with a gene drive, a framework for this kind of analysis is developed in this chapter.


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