In this study, we investigate how specific micro-interaction structures (motifs) affect the occurrence of tipping cascades on networks of stylized tipping elements. We compare the properties of cascades in Erdős–Rényi networks and an exemplary moisture recycling network of the Amazon rainforest. Within these networks, decisive small-scale motifs are the feed forward loop, the secondary feed forward loop, the zero loop, and the neighboring loop. Of all motifs, the feed forward loop motif stands out in tipping cascades since it decreases the critical coupling strength necessary to initiate a cascade more than the other motifs. We find that for this motif, the reduction of critical coupling strength is 11% less than the critical coupling of a pair of tipping elements. For highly connected networks, our analysis reveals that coupled feed forward loops coincide with a strong 90% decrease in the critical coupling strength. For the highly clustered moisture recycling network in the Amazon, we observe regions of a very high motif occurrence for each of the four investigated motifs, suggesting that these regions are more vulnerable. The occurrence of motifs is found to be one order of magnitude higher than in a random Erdős–Rényi network. This emphasizes the importance of local interaction structures for the emergence of global cascades and the stability of the network as a whole.

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