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Rivet Hypothesis: we are stronger with diversity

Updated: Aug 3



Have you heard of the rivet hypothesis? This is a foundational understanding of how systems function and the value of diversity. The rivet hypothesis explains the importance of diversity and the stability of a system as if it were rivets on a plane. As more rivets are removed the plane become weaker and weaker until it ultimately falls apart.


Ecological systems are the exact same way. When organisms are removed, niches (spaces were organisms reside and perform specific jobs in their community) open and create vulnerable spaces were invasive species, pests, or disease can come in and disrupt its balance.


The more organisms are removed, and diversity decreases, the less resilience it will have to harmful organisms or natural disasters.


Imagine that you have a group of people who are from around the world, different genetics, demographics, orientations, educational backgrounds. This group's diversity will greatly aid it's ability to create a variety of innovative solutions when faced with challenges or obstacles. If you lose half of the group and those individuals are replace with the same number of individuals that are all of the same background, gender, and education history, the group has just greatly decreased its ability to approach a variety of situations with the same finesse.


Without diversity, resistances build up quickly and the entire system becomes susceptible.


Diversity is key to the success of our agricultural systems and to society.


As a country, there has been such a strong push back against accepting differences and supporting diversity. It is without surprise that those exact same patterns and behaviors are occurring in the agricultural system. This has left our food system weak and in desperate need of refocusing and rejuvenation. In Oregon, there has been a strong push toward sustainability and organics. As the public supports these movements they will continue to grow and flourish.


How can we embrace our differences, and enhance the diversity in our lives on every level?


Let us know what you think!


Additional Resources:


Altieri, M., C. I. Nichols, and M. A. Fritz. 2005. Manage insects on your farm: A guide to ecological strategies. Sustainable agriculture network handbook series book 7. (Available online at: http://www.sare.org/Learning-Center/Books/Manage-Insects-on-Your-Farm) (verified 25 April 2011).


Lawton, J. H. 1994. What do species do in ecosystems? Oikos 71: 367-374.Schowalter, T. D. 2006. Insect ecology: An ecosystem approach. 2nd Edition. Academic Press. Burlington, MA.


Tilman, D., C. L. Lehman, and C. E. Bristow. 1998. Diversity-stability relationships: Statistical inevitability or ecological consequence? The American Naturalist 151: 277-282.


Walker, B. H. 1992. Biodiversity and ecological redundancy. Conservation Biology 6: 18-23.

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