Catastrophic shifts in ecosystems

M. Scheffer, S. Carpenter, J.A. Foley, C. Folke, B. Walker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4135 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

All ecosystems are exposed to gradual changes in climate, nutrient loading, habitat fragmentation or biotic exploitation. Nature is usually assumed to respond to gradual change in a smooth way. However, studies on lakes, coral reefs, oceans, forests and arid lands have shown that smooth change can be interrupted by sudden drastic switches to a contrasting state. Although diverse events can trigger such shifts, recent studies show that a loss of resilience usually paves the way for a switch to an alternative state. This suggests that strategies for sustainable management of such ecosystems should focus on maintaining resilience.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)591-596
JournalNature
Volume413
Issue number6856
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2001

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    Scheffer, M., Carpenter, S., Foley, J. A., Folke, C., & Walker, B. (2001). Catastrophic shifts in ecosystems. Nature, 413(6856), 591-596. https://doi.org/10.1038/35098000