Welcome to the Center for BioComplexity


Biological systems, from ecosystems to the biosphere, support our continued existence on the planet. From them we derive food and fiber, fuel and pharmaceuticals. Ecosystems mediate local and regional climates, stabilize soils, purify water and in general provide a nearly endless list of services essential to life as we know it. The case for the preservation of ecosystems and these services is manifestly clear; the essential challenges are in the details of how to do it. The key is in understanding biocomplexity -- how it arises, how it is maintained, and how it sustains the services we derive from it.

The Center for BioComplexity examines the mechanisms, from cells to ecosystems and the biosphere, sustaining crucial regional and global processes that underlie our life-support systems. Necessarily, these investigations include interactions between natural and socio-ecologic systems, and hence the dynamics of coupled human and environmental systems. The research approach combines empirical and theoretical work, documenting emergent laws of organization, and examining through sophisticated modeling the mechanisms that generate and maintain biocomplexity and predictable features of ecological organization. The CBC is directed by Simon A. Levin, the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

2022-2023 CBC Highlights

(1) The collaboration with the Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC) and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) continues, with new funding, and with multiple collaboartive efforts ongoing in the areas of global food and agriculture, sustainable cities, among other topics. Considerable progress has been made on categorizing critical transitions in natural and social systems and identifying early warning signals; novel approaches to governance in the face of extreme events; and sustainable transformations in trade networks, (2) Work has continued with multiple collaborators on dimensions of the management of infectious diseases, from the molecular level to social dynamics and management. The collaboration with the University of Virginia has expanded, with new funding and multiple manuscripts, (3) The world premiere of "Mekong: LIFE" took place at Stanford University on April 23, 2023. The production features original compositions by Vân-Ánh Võ based in large part on her visit to Princeton (see the CBC Events Page), and including interviews with Princeton researchers, (4) As a result of NSF and CIMES support, much work has continued on both marine and terrestrial ecosystems, including especially shifting boundaries in savanna-forest systems, as well as the development of improved trait-based models of marine ecosystems.