Structural similarities between human networks and biological ecosystems have inspired biomimetic design of human networks. The approach requires the networks to be represented as graphs, where the actors are nodes and the connections between actors are links. A major oversight in the application of ecosystem-based modeling to human networks thus far has been in the selection of actors and links. Transfers between species in a biological ecosystem are direct, happening when the species are co-located. Human networks often require a physical aid to complete the transaction, such as power transmission lines, pipelines, or vehicles. These exchange methods experience dissipation, which is not captured in current applications of ecosystem-based human network modeling. Human networks modeled as ecosystems thus far simply categorize exchanges as links in the graph, effectively forcing dissipation during material/energy transport to be neglected. This dissipation can sometimes be high relative to the total energy/material exchanged and thus is a potentially large oversight. Three hypothetical power grids and three Italian urban water distribution networks are used to quantify the impact of modeling interaction aids — power lines and water pipelines — as actors (and thus including any dissipation) in an ecosystem model. Ecological structural and flow metrics previously applied to human networks are evaluated between the two modeling methods. The comparison shows that the impact of this overlooked aspect is potentially significant and warrants consideration.

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