Catastrophic shifts in ecosystems

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5426 Citations (Scopus)


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
Issue number6856
Publication statusPublished - 2001


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