BigBiology Podcasts
Episode 063: Survival of the Systems: the Power of Persistence



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Art Woods, Marty Martin


Tim Lenton


Can selection act on ecosystems, societies, or planets such that some persist and others disappear? Must such systems reproduce to evolve?

On this episode, we talk to Tim Lenton, Director of the Global Systems Institute (@GSI_Exeter) and a Professor of Climate Change and Earth System Science at the University of Exeter. In his 2021 Trends in Ecology & Evolution paper “Survival of the Systems,” Tim outlined his idea that large, complex systems--such as grasslands, coral reefs, and even human economies--are subject to a kind of natural selection based on their ability to persist. Tim argues that systems better able to extract and recycle resources will spread across landscapes and outcompete other such systems.

This episode is produced in collaboration with Trends in Ecology & Evolution (@Trends_Ecol_Evo). TREE, published by Cell Press, is a monthly review journal that contains polished, concise and readable Reviews and Opinions in all areas of ecology and evolutionary science. It aims to keep scientists informed of new developments and ideas across the full range of ecology and evolutionary biology--from the pure to the applied, and from the molecular to the global. Visit:

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1 hour, 8 minutes, 41 seconds

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Episode 063: Survival of the Systems: the Power of Persistence