Regime shifts, resilience, and biodiversity in ecosystem management

C. Folke, S. Carpenter, B. Walker, M. Scheffer, T. Elmqvist, L. Gunderson, C.S. Holling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2253 Citations (Scopus)


We review the evidence of regime shifts in terrestrial and aquatic environments in relation to resilience of complex adaptive ecosystems and the functional roles of biological diversity in this context. The evidence reveals that the likelihood of regime shifts may increase when humans reduce resilience by such actions as removing response diversity, removing whole functional groups of species, or removing whole trophic levels; impacting on ecosystems via emissions of waste and pollutants and climate change; and altering the magnitude, frequency, and duration of disturbance regimes. The combined and often synergistic effects of those pressures can make ecosystems more vulnerable to changes that previously could be absorbed. As a consequence, ecosystems may suddenly shift from desired to less desired states in their capacity to generate ecosystem services. Active adaptive management and governance of resilience will be required to sustain desired ecosystem states and transform degraded ecosystems into fundamentally new and more desirable configurations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)557-581
JournalAnnual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics
Publication statusPublished - 2004


  • alternative stable states
  • coral-reefs
  • baltic sea
  • species-diversity
  • phase-shifts
  • trophic cascades
  • climate-change
  • shallow lakes
  • el-nino
  • vegetation


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