The Hidden Chaos That Lurks in Ecosystems

By the early ’90s, ecologists had amassed enough time-series data sets on species populations and enough computing power to test these ideas. There was just one problem: The chaos didn’t seem to be there. Only about 10 percent of the examined populations seemed to change chaotically; the rest either cycled stably or fluctuated randomly. Theories of ecosystem chaos fell out of scientific fashion by the mid-1990s.

The new results from Rogers, Munch and their Santa Cruz mathematician colleague Bethany Johnson, however, suggest that the older work missed where the chaos was hiding. To detect chaos, the earlier studies used models with a

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