Evaluating discontinuities in complex systems: Toward quantitative measures of resilience

Craig Stow, Craig R. Allen, Ahjond S. Garmestani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


The textural discontinuity hypothesis (TDH) is based on the observation that animal body mass distributions exhibit discontinuities that may reflect the texture of the landscape available for exploitation. This idea has been extended to other complex systems, hinting that the identification and quantification of discontinuities in the distributions of appropriate variables may provide clues to emergent system properties such as resilience. We propose a discontinuity index, based on the vector norm of the full assemblage of observed discontinuities, as a means to quantify and compare this characteristic among systems. We also evaluate four methods to identify the number and location of the most prominent discontinuities. Although results of the four methods are similar, they are not identical, and we conclude that this problem is best addressed with a consistent operationally defined approach in an adaptive inference framework.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number26
JournalEcology and Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 2007


  • Discontinuities
  • Resilience
  • Scalebreaks
  • Textural discontinuity hypothesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology


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