Early Warning Signals of Social Transformation: A Case Study from the US Southwest.
ABSTRACT: Recent research in ecology suggests that generic indicators, referred to as early warning signals (EWS), may occur before significant transformations, both critical and non-critical, in complex systems. Up to this point, research on EWS has largely focused on simple models and controlled experiments in ecology and climate science. When humans are considered in these arenas they are invariably seen as external sources of disturbance or management. In this article we explore ways to include societal components of socio-ecological systems directly in EWS analysis. Given the growing archaeological literature on 'collapses,' or transformations, in social systems, we investigate whether any early warning signals are apparent in the archaeological records of the build-up to two contemporaneous cases of social transformation in the prehistoric US Southwest, Mesa Verde and Zuni. The social transformations in these two cases differ in scope and severity, thus allowing us to explore the contexts under which warning signals may (or may not) emerge. In both cases our results show increasing variance in settlement size before the transformation, but increasing variance in social institutions only before the critical transformation in Mesa Verde. In the Zuni case, social institutions appear to have managed the process of significant social change. We conclude that variance is of broad relevance in anticipating social change, and the capacity of social institutions to mitigate transformation is critical to consider in EWS research on socio-ecological systems.
Project description:The resurgence of infectious diseases due to vaccine refusal has highlighted the role of interactions between disease dynamics and the spread of vaccine opinion on social networks. Shifts between disease elimination and outbreak regimes often occur through tipping points. It is known that tipping points can be predicted by early warning signals (EWS) based on characteristic dynamics near the critical transition, but the study of EWS in coupled behaviour-disease networks has received little attention. Here, we test several EWS indicators measuring spatial coherence and autocorrelation for their ability to predict a critical transition corresponding to disease outbreaks and vaccine refusal in a multiplex network model. The model couples paediatric infectious disease spread through a contact network to binary opinion dynamics of vaccine opinion on a social network. Through change point detection, we find that mutual information and join count indicators provided the best EWS. We also show the paediatric infectious disease natural history generates a discrepancy between population-level vaccine opinions and vaccine immunity status, such that transitions in the social network may occur before epidemiological transitions. These results suggest that monitoring social media for EWS of paediatric infectious disease outbreaks using these spatial indicators could be successful.
Project description:Epidemic transitions are an important feature of infectious disease systems. As the transmissibility of a pathogen increases, the dynamics of disease spread shifts from limited stuttering chains of transmission to potentially large scale outbreaks. One proposed method to anticipate this transition are early-warning signals (EWS), summary statistics which undergo characteristic changes as the transition is approached. Although theoretically predicted, their mathematical basis does not take into account the nature of epidemiological data, which are typically aggregated into periodic case reports and subject to reporting error. The viability of EWS for epidemic transitions therefore remains uncertain. Here we demonstrate that most EWS can predict emergence even when calculated from imperfect data. We quantify performance using the area under the curve (AUC) statistic, a measure of how well an EWS distinguishes between numerical simulations of an emerging disease and one which is stationary. Values of the AUC statistic are compared across a range of different reporting scenarios. We find that different EWS respond to imperfect data differently. The mean, variance and first differenced variance all perform well unless reporting error is highly overdispersed. The autocorrelation, autocovariance and decay time perform well provided that the aggregation period of the data is larger than the serial interval and reporting error is not highly overdispersed. The coefficient of variation, skewness and kurtosis are found to be unreliable indicators of emergence. Overall, we find that seven of ten EWS considered perform well for most realistic reporting scenarios. We conclude that imperfect epidemiological data is not a barrier to using EWS for many potentially emerging diseases.
Project description:The Dansgaard-Oeschger (DO) events, as observed in oxygen isotope ratios from the North Greenland Ice Core Project (NGRIP) record, are an outstanding example of past abrupt climate transitions. Their physical cause remains debated, and previous research indicated that they are not preceded by classical early-warning signals (EWS). Subsequent research hypothesized that the DO events are caused by bifurcations of physical mechanisms operating at decadal timescales, and proposed to search for EWS in the high-frequency fluctuation levels. Here, a time series with 5-year resolution is obtained from the raw NGRIP record, and significant numbers of EWS in terms of variance and autocorrelation increases are revealed in the decadal-scale variability. Wavelet analysis indicates that the EWS are most pronounced in the 10-50-year periodicity band, confirming the above hypothesis. The DO events are hence neither directly noise-induced nor purely externally forced, which provides valuable constraints regarding potential physical causes.
Project description:Early warning signals (EWS) identify systems approaching a critical transition, where the system undergoes a sudden change in state. For example, monitoring changes in variance or autocorrelation offers a computationally inexpensive method which can be used in real-time to assess when an infectious disease transitions to elimination. EWS have a promising potential to not only be used to monitor infectious diseases, but also to inform control policies to aid disease elimination. Previously, potential EWS have been identified for prevalence data, however the prevalence of a disease is often not known directly. In this work we identify EWS for incidence data, the standard data type collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or World Health Organization (WHO). We show, through several examples, that EWS calculated on simulated incidence time series data exhibit vastly different behaviours to those previously studied on prevalence data. In particular, the variance displays a decreasing trend on the approach to disease elimination, contrary to that expected from critical slowing down theory; this could lead to unreliable indicators of elimination when calculated on real-world data. We derive analytical predictions which can be generalised for many epidemiological systems, and we support our theory with simulated studies of disease incidence. Additionally, we explore EWS calculated on the rate of incidence over time, a property which can be extracted directly from incidence data. We find that although incidence might not exhibit typical critical slowing down properties before a critical transition, the rate of incidence does, presenting a promising new data type for the application of statistical indicators.
Project description:Despite medical advances, the emergence and re-emergence of infectious diseases continue to pose a public health threat. Low-dimensional epidemiological models predict that epidemic transitions are preceded by the phenomenon of critical slowing down (CSD). This has raised the possibility of anticipating disease (re-)emergence using CSD-based early-warning signals (EWS), which are statistical moments estimated from time series data. For EWS to be useful at detecting future (re-)emergence, CSD needs to be a generic (model-independent) feature of epidemiological dynamics irrespective of system complexity. Currently, it is unclear whether the predictions of CSD-derived from simple, low-dimensional systems-pertain to real systems, which are high-dimensional. To assess the generality of CSD, we carried out a simulation study of a hierarchy of models, with increasing structural complexity and dimensionality, for a measles-like infectious disease. Our five models included: i) a nonseasonal homogeneous Susceptible-Exposed-Infectious-Recovered (SEIR) model, ii) a homogeneous SEIR model with seasonality in transmission, iii) an age-structured SEIR model, iv) a multiplex network-based model (Mplex) and v) an agent-based simulator (FRED). All models were parameterised to have a herd-immunity immunization threshold of around 90% coverage, and underwent a linear decrease in vaccine uptake, from 92% to 70% over 15 years. We found evidence of CSD prior to disease re-emergence in all models. We also evaluated the performance of seven EWS: the autocorrelation, coefficient of variation, index of dispersion, kurtosis, mean, skewness, variance. Performance was scored using the Area Under the ROC Curve (AUC) statistic. The best performing EWS were the mean and variance, with AUC > 0.75 one year before the estimated transition time. These two, along with the autocorrelation and index of dispersion, are promising candidate EWS for detecting disease emergence.
Project description:The interplay of human actions and natural processes over varied spatial and temporal scales can result in abrupt transitions between contrasting land surface states. Understanding these transitions is a key goal of sustainability science because they can represent abrupt losses of natural capital. This paper recognizes flickering between alternate land surface states in advance of threshold change and critical slowing down in advance of both threshold changes and noncritical transformation. The early warning signals we observe are rises in autocorrelation, variance, and skewness within millimeter-resolution thickness measurements of tephra layers deposited in A.D. 2010 and A.D. 2011. These signals reflect changing patterns of surface vegetation, which are known to provide early warning signals of critical transformations. They were observed toward migrating soil erosion fronts, cryoturbation limits, and expanding deflation zones, thus providing potential early warning signals of land surface change. The record of the spatial patterning of vegetation contained in contemporary tephra layers shows how proximity to land surface change could be assessed in the widespread regions affected by shallow layers of volcanic fallout (those that can be subsumed within the existing vegetation cover). This insight shows how we could use tephra layers in the stratigraphic record to identify "near misses," close encounters with thresholds that did not lead to tipping points, and thus provide additional tools for archaeology, sustainability science, and contemporary land management.
Project description:Ecosystems on the verge of major reorganization-regime shift-may exhibit declining resilience, which can be detected using a collection of generic statistical tests known as early warning signals (EWSs). This study explores whether EWSs anticipated human population collapse during the European Neolithic. It analyzes recent reconstructions of European Neolithic (8-4 kya) population trends that reveal regime shifts from a period of rapid growth following the introduction of agriculture to a period of instability and collapse. We find statistical support for EWSs in advance of population collapse. Seven of nine regional datasets exhibit increasing autocorrelation and variance leading up to collapse, suggesting that these societies began to recover from perturbation more slowly as resilience declined. We derive EWS statistics from a prehistoric population proxy based on summed archaeological radiocarbon date probability densities. We use simulation to validate our methods and show that sampling biases, atmospheric effects, radiocarbon calibration error, and taphonomic processes are unlikely to explain the observed EWS patterns. The implications of these results for understanding the dynamics of Neolithic ecosystems are discussed, and we present a general framework for analyzing societal regime shifts using EWS at large spatial and temporal scales. We suggest that our findings are consistent with an adaptive cycling model that highlights both the vulnerability and resilience of early European populations. We close by discussing the implications of the detection of EWS in human systems for archaeology and sustainability science.
Project description:Zuni Indians are experiencing simultaneous epidemics of type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) and renal disease [Scavini, M., Stidley, C. A., Shah, V. O., Narva, A. S., Tentori, F., Kessler, D. S., et al. (2003). Prevalence of diabetes is higher among female than male Zuni Indians: Diabetes among Zuni Indians. Diabetes Care, 26 (1), 55-60; Shah, V. O., Scavini, M., Stidley, C., Tentori, F., Welty, T., Maccluer, J. W., et al. (2003). Epidemic of diabetic and nondiabetic renal disease among the Zuni Indians: The Zuni Kidney Project. Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, 14, 1320-1329]. Methylglyoxal (MG), a highly reactive, cytotoxic, cross-linking endogenous aldehyde involved in the modification of biologic macromolecules, is elevated among patients with T2DM. Glyoxalase I (Glo1) is the initial enzyme involved in the detoxification of MG. Glo1 is a dimeric enzyme with three isoforms Glo1-1, Glo2-1, and Glo2-2, resulting from a point mutation (A-->C) at position 332 of cDNA. The present study was conducted to explore the hypothesis that specific polymorphisms of the Glo1 gene are associated with diabetes and/or albuminuria in Zuni Indians. We studied four groups of Zuni Indians stratified by diabetes status and albuminuria, as assessed by the urinary albumin:creatinine ratio (UACR): Group I--normal controls; Group II--T2DM and UACR<0.03; Group III--T2DM and UACR>or=0.03; and Group IV--nondiabetic participants with UACR>or=0.03. Genomic DNA was used as template for polymerase chain reaction amplification of the Glo1 gene. Products were digested to yield 110-bp bands (homozygous, CC); 54- and 45-bp bands (homozygous, AA); or all three bands (heterozygous CA). Data on age, gender, UACR, serum creatinine, hemoglobin A1(c), serum glucose, systolic and diastolic blood pressures, and the duration of T2DM among participants in Groups II and III were analyzed using analysis of variance. A generalized linear model logistic regression analysis was used to assess the relationships between specific Glo1 polymorphisms to T2DM and UACR. All three Glo1 genotypes were present among Zuni Indians. There were no significant differences in the distributions of Glo1 genotypes among the study groups (chi-square test, P=.5590). The prevalence of Glo1 A allele was higher among diabetic participants (Groups II and III combined) than among nondiabetic participants (Groups I and IV combined) (chi-square test, P=.0233). There was an association (odds ratio=2.9; 95% confidence interval=1.3-7.2) between the Glo1 A allele and T2DM.
Project description:Prehistoric peoples chose farming locations based on environmental conditions, such as soil moisture, which plays a crucial role in crop production. Ancestral Pueblo communities of the central Mesa Verde region became increasingly reliant on maize agriculture for their subsistence needs by AD 900. Prehistoric agriculturalists (e.g., Ancestral Pueblo farmers) were dependent on having sufficient soil moisture for successful plant growth. To better understand the quality of farmland in terms of soil moisture, this study develops a static geospatial soil moisture model, the Soil Moisture Proxy Model, which uses soil and topographic variables to estimate soil moisture potential across a watershed. The model is applied to the semi-arid region of the Goodman watershed in the central Mesa Verde region of southwestern Colorado. We evaluate the model by comparing the Goodman watershed output to two other watersheds and to soil moisture sensor values. The simple framework can be used in other regions of the world, where water is also an important limiting factor for farming. The general outcome of this research is an improved understanding of potential farmland and human-environmental relationships across the local landscape.
Project description:To develop and validate a centile-based early warning score using manually-recorded data (mCEWS). To compare mCEWS performance with a centile-based early warning score derived from continuously-acquired data (from bedside monitors, cCEWS), and with other published early warning scores.We used an unsupervised approach to investigate the statistical properties of vital signs in an in-hospital patient population and construct an early-warning score from a "development" dataset. We evaluated scoring systems on a separate "validation" dataset. We assessed the ability of scores to discriminate patients at risk of cardiac arrest, unanticipated intensive care unit admission, or death, each within 24?h of a given vital-sign observation, using metrics including the area under the receiver-operating characteristic curve (AUC).The development dataset contained 301,644 vital sign observations from 12,153 admissions (median age (IQR): 63 (49-73); 49.2% females) March 2014-September 2015. The validation dataset contained 1,459,422 vital-sign observations from 53,395 admissions (median age (IQR): 68 (48-81), 51.4% females) October 2015-May 2017. The AUC (95% CI) for the mCEWS was 0.868 (0.864-0.872), comparable with the National EWS, 0.867 (0.863-0.871), and other recently proposed scores. The AUC for cCEWS was 0.808 (95% CI, 0.804-0.812). The improvement in performance in comparison to the continuous CEWS was mainly explained by respiratory rate threshold differences.Performance of an EWS is highly dependent on the database from which itis derived. Our unsupervised statistical approach provides a straightforward, reproducible method to enable the rapid development of candidate EWS systems.