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Trajectories toward maximum power and inequality in resource distribution networks

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  • N. Davis
  • A. Jarvis
  • M.J. Aitkenhead
  • J. Gareth Polhill
Article numbere0229956
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>10/03/2020
<mark>Journal</mark>PLoS ONE
Issue number3
Number of pages19
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Resource distribution networks are the infrastructure facilitating the flow of resources in both biotic and abiotic systems. Both theoretical and empirical arguments have proposed that physical systems self-organise to maximise power production, but how this trajectory is related to network development, especially regarding the heterogeneity of resource distribution in explicitly spatial networks, is less understood. Quantifying the heterogeneity of resource distribution is necessary for understanding how phenomena such as economic inequality or energetic niches emerge across socio-ecological and environmental systems. Although qualitative discussions have been put forward on this topic, to date there has not been a quantitative analysis of the relationship between network development, maximum power, and inequality. This paper introduces a theoretical framework and applies it to simulate the power consumption and inequality in generalised, spatially explicit resource distribution networks. The networks illustrate how increasing resource flows amplify inequality in power consumption at network end points, due to the spatial heterogeneity of the distribution architecture. As increasing resource flows and the development of hierarchical branching can both be strategies for increasing power consumption, this raises important questions about the different outcomes of heterogeneous distribution in natural versus human-engineered networks, and how to prioritise equity of distribution in the latter. © 2020 Davis et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.