Title:

Chromatic and structural properties of sparse graph classes

A graph is a mathematical structure consisting of a set of objects, which we call vertices, and links between pairs of objects, which we call edges. Graphs are used to model many problems arising in areas such as physics, sociology, and computer science. It is partially because of the simplicity of the definition of a graph that the concept can be so widely used. Nevertheless, when applied to a particular task, it is not always necessary to study graphs in all their generality, and it can be convenient to studying them from a restricted point of view. Restriction can come from requiring graphs to be embeddable in a particular surface, to admit certain types of decompositions, or by forbidding some substructure. A collection of graphs satisfying a fixed restriction forms a class of graphs. Many important classes of graphs satisfy that graphs belonging to it cannot have many edges in comparison with the number of vertices. Such is the case of classes with an upper bound on the maximum degree, and of classes excluding a fixed minor. Recently, the notion of classes with bounded expansion was introduced by Neˇsetˇril and Ossona de Mendez [62], as a generalisation of many important types of sparse classes. In this thesis we study chromatic and structural properties of classes with bounded expansion. We say a graph is kdegenerate if each of its subgraphs has a vertex of degree at most k. The degeneracy is thus a measure of the density of a graph. This notion has been generalised with the introduction, by Kierstead and Yang [47], of the generalised colouring numbers. These parameters have found applications in many areas of Graph Theory, including a characterisation of classes with bounded expansion. One of the main results of this thesis is a series of upper bounds on the generalised colouring numbers, for different sparse classes of graphs, such as classes excluding a fixed complete minor, classes with bounded genus and classes with bounded treewidth. We also study the following problem: for a fixed positive integer p, how many colours do we need to colour a given graph in such a way that vertices at distance exactly p get different colours? When considering classes with bounded expansion, we improve dramatically on the previously known upper bounds for the number of colours needed. Finally, we introduce a notion of addition of graph classes, and show various cases in which sparse classes can be summed so as to obtain another sparse class.
