Sometimes biomimicry is literal — emulate the chemistry of blue mussels to make a formaldehyde-free glue, or mimic shark skin to create an anti-fouling surface for sea-going vessels. But sometimes biomimicry is metaphorical, and these ideas can often be the most fun to think about.
A recent news release from Brown University provides some food for thought. Titled “How Plant Communities Endure Stress,” the article talks about a meta-analysis that covered 206 studies in six continents. The analysis confirms the Stress Gradient Hypothesis which holds that as stress increases in an ecosystem, such as through drought, mutually supportive interactions become more significant and negative interactions, such as competition, become less so. This information is valuable for protecting and restoring ecosystems.
It’s also interesting to think about this hypothesis for use in stressful social and business situations. For example, in a recession, would we be better off increasing competition among similar businesses, or should we look for ways to foster cooperation and positive, mutualistic interactions? What about applying this approach to recovering from a disaster such as a hurricane? After stressful periods in a community, it would be better to create conditions that increase opportunities for people to be supportive rather than create conditions that increase stress through competition.