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Nature. 2001 Oct 11;413(6856):591-6.

Catastrophic shifts in ecosystems.

Author information

  • 1Department of Aquatic Ecology and Water Quality Management, Wageningen University, PO Box 8080, NL-6700 DD Wageningen, The Netherlands. marten.scheffer@aqec.wkao.wau.nl

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.

PMID:
11595939
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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